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

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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.]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • 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.

  • Stephen My "mid-level" limited edition Tonino Lambo Ferraccio Junior watch has performed flawlessly with attractive understated style for nearly 20 years. Their cars are not so much to my taste-- my Acura NSX is just fine. Not sure why you have such condescension towards these excellent timepieces. They are attractive without unnecessary flamboyance, keep perfect time and are extremely reliable. They are also very reasonably priced.
  • Dana You don’t need park, you set auto hold (button on the console). Every BMW answers to ‘Hey, BMW’, but you can set your own personal wake word in iDrive. It takes less than 5 minutes to figure that that out, btw. The audio stays on which is handy for Teams meetings. Once your phone is out of range, the audio is stopped on the car. You can always press down on the audio volume wheel which will mute it, if it bothers you. I found all the controls very intuitive.
  • ToolGuy Not sure if I've ever said this, or if you were listening:• Learn to drive, people.Also, learn which vehicles to take home with you and which ones to walk away from. You are an adult now, think for yourself. (Those ads are lying to you. Your friendly neighborhood automotive dealer, also lying to you. Politicians? Lying to you. Oh yeah, learn how to vote lol.)Addendum for the weak-minded who think I am advocating some 'driver training' program: Learning is not something you do in school once for all time. Learning how to drive is not something that someone does for you. It is a continuous process driven by YOU. Learn how to learn how to drive, and learn to drive. Keep on learning how to drive. (You -- over there -- especially you, you kind of suck at driving. LOL.)Example: Do you know where your tires are? When you are 4 hours into a 6 hour interstate journey and change lanes, do you run over the raised center line retroreflective bumpers, or do you steer between them?
  • Mike Bradley Advertising, movies and TV, manufacturing, and car culture have all made speeding and crashing the ultimate tests of manhood. Throw in the political craziness and you've got a perfect soup of destruction and costs.
  • Lou_BC Jay Leno had said that EV's would be good since they could allow the continued existence of ICE cars for enthusiasts. That sentiment makes sense. Many buyers see vehicles as a necessary appliance.