Lexus Aiming Low For UX Price, Wants America's Youth Behind the Wheel

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
lexus aiming low for ux price wants americas youth behind the wheel

With its new UX crossover in tow, Lexus now has a utility vehicle competing in every segment. However, it wants to make sure its getting the right customers behind the wheel. If the gargantuan GL is intended for large families with a fair amount of pocket change and an abundance of parking space, the UX is certainly aimed at childless urbanites who want something upscale but haven’t yet amassed the same level of wealth.

Lexus is aiming low for the subcompact luxury crossover’s base price, hoping to tap into the youth market. That’s important because the average owner for a Lexus-badged vehicle is around 60-years old. However, a cheap and youth-oriented vehicle for Lexus doesn’t mean the same thing as it does for Toyota and the MSRP is going to reflect that — despite UX’s downmarket push.

Mercedes-Benz has the GLA starting at $33,400 and Audi has the Q3 at a somewhat leaner $32,900, so we’d expect Lexus to attempt to undercut them with the UX ever-so-slightly. But that might not be the case. The brand has previously said $30,000 would be too low for a luxury model and, in an interview with Automotive News, Lexus General Manager Jeff Bracken said the target market will still have been out of high school for quite some time.

“We are trying to get at an audience that’s probably about 35 years old, men and women by the way, and I suppose you could throw in the millennial group as well,” he elaborated during the New York Auto Show. “And that would be a huge win for us because, clearly, with our current average buyer with all our vehicles at 60, we have a ways to go.”

Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis at AutoPacific, suggested a UX starting price of around $33,000 — which would keep it a comfortable distance from the larger NX’s pre-destination MSRP of $35,985. But the littler Lexus is down on power against its German rivals. Both the GLA and Q3 are equipped with engines producing at least 200 horsepower. Meanwhile, the UX’s “Dynamic Force” 2.0-liter inline-four is only expected to make 168 hp in its base trim.

While that is a significant increase in might over the C-HR, which it shares a platform with, it’s still likely to be a noticeable downgrade in power against the German offerings. Therefore, the UX will have to wow consumers with superior polish and practicality.

This is not inconceivable. The C-HR offers 27 city / 31 highway, according to the EPA, and there is no reason to think the UX’s impressive thermal efficiency won’t adhere closely to those numbers. Lexus also has the benefit of the UX 250h, which adds some extra power, all-wheel drive, and improves economy through hybridization. While the Direct Shift CVT isn’t the most enthralling of transmission types, Lexus says it will feel more natural and fun than a standard unit.

There is also the matter of the UX’s ludicrously tight 17.1-foot turning radius and the inclusion of Toyota’s safety suite. We don’t yet know everything that will be on the crossover but Lexus made mention of a pre-collision system that uses radar to detect pedestrians and bicyclists, two things that are incredibly important during city driving.

However, none of that guarantees a younger audience will take notice. “Our take on millenials is that it’s really, really difficult to tell them, ‘We’re building a car for you.’ That’s almost a turnoff,” explained Bracken. He claimed the solution to that was aggressive market research and the utilization of the brand’s first female chief engineer, Chika Kako. “ The styling is polarizing but in a way that people won’t mistake it for the Lexus their grandmother drives,” he said.

Lexus is targeting the UX at the same volume benchmarks it had for the launch of the NX — 20,000 units per year. Also like the NX, it’s hoping the smaller crossover will surpass expectations. The NX moved 43,764 units in the UX during it’s first full year (2015) and sales have increased to almost 60,000 annual deliveries in the United States. Bracken is hoping the addition of a subscription service will help bolster appeal to the younger crowd. “A subscription service is what all the cool kids are doing these days,” he said.

Both the hybrid UX 250h and conventional UX 200 will go on sale in the United States late in the fall.

[Images: Toyota Motor Corp.]

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2 of 72 comments
  • IBx1 IBx1 on Apr 09, 2018

    Introducing the Lexu sUX

  • 30-mile fetch 30-mile fetch on Apr 09, 2018

    Two undignified segments that I am surprised luxury automakers don't just stay away from: -Lightly contented low-$30K "value" models -Subcompact CUVs This one is both. Icky. Actually, I'm not surprised. What are you to do when the more interesting and traditional RWD sedan formats are not popular in the market at large, and in your lineup in particular? The IS350 and GS350 were comparison winners at one point but everyone either wants blobs with ride height or a German badge for Reasons Unknown on their lease-and-dispose entry-level luxury sports sedans.

  • Lou_BC "Owners of affected Wrangles" Does a missing "r" cancel an extra stud?
  • Slavuta One can put a secret breaker that will disable the starter or spark plug supply. Even disabling headlights or all lights will bring more trouble to thieves than they wish for. With no brake lights, someone will hit from behind, they will leave fingerprints inside. Or if they steal at night, they will have to drive with no lights. Any of these things definitely will bring attention.I remember people removing rotor from under distributor cup.
  • Slavuta Government Motors + Government big tech + government + Federal police = fascist surveillance state. USSR surveillance pales...
  • Johnster Another quibble, this time about the contextualization of the Thunderbird and Cougar, and their relationship to the prestigious Continental Mark. (I know. It's confusing.) The Thunderbird/Mark IV platform introduced for the 1971 model year was apparently derived from the mid-sized Torino/Montego platform (also introduced for the 1971 model year), but should probably be considered different from it.As we all know, the Cougar shared its platform with the Ford Mustang up through the 1973 model year, moving to the mid-sized Torino/Montego platform for the 1974 model year. This platform was also shared with the failed Ford Gran Torino Elite, (introduced in February of 1974, the "Gran Torino" part of the name was dropped for the 1975 and 1976 model years).The Thunderbird/Mark series duo's separation occurred with the 1977 model year when the Thunderbird was downsized to share a platform with the LTD II/Cougar. The 1977 model year saw Mercury drop the "Montego" name and adopt the "Cougar" name for all of their mid-sized cars, including plain 2-doors, 4-doors and and 4-door station wagons. Meanwhile, the Cougar PLC was sold as the "Cougar XR-7." The Cougar wagon was dropped for the 1978 model year (arguably replaced by the new Zephyr wagon) while the (plain) 2-door and 4-door models remained in production for the 1978 and 1979 model years. It was a major prestige blow for the Thunderbird. Underneath, the Thunderbird and Cougar XR-7 for 1977 were warmed-over versions of the failed Ford Elite (1974-1976), while the Mark V was a warmed-over version of the previous Mark IV.
  • Stuart de Baker This is depressing, and I don't own one of these.