Lexus Says It's Sticking With Cars, Despite the Scorching SUV Market
Ever since Ford announced its abandonment of traditional passenger cars that aren’t the Mustang, automakers have been very clear to specify whether or not they plan to do the same. The majority seem to feel as if cars have a place in the market. That said, very few manufacturers are increasing sedan output when crossovers and sport utilities are presently so lucrative. For example, Lexus owes the majority of its volume to higher-riding liftbacks, but recently made the promise to maintain a diverse production portfolio.
Accounting for roughly one third of its total volume, cars aren’t the brand’s biggest money maker anymore. But Toyota’s luxury arm believes ditching them now would be an imprudent strategy. Perhaps Lexus is keeping an eye on fuel prices, or maybe it just realizes it can’t play the game in the same manner as the already truck-focused Ford.
According to Lexus’ vice president of marketing, Cooper Ericksen, the official reason for staying with cars has everything to do with the customer. “The fact is there is and will continue to be a very important role for sedans,” Ericksen told The Detroit Bureau during a press event for the 2019 ES model in Nashville, Tennessee. “Half the buyers of SUVs also own a sedan.”
Presumably, this was an issue Ford also had to come to terms with. While a Ford shopper is probably more likely to own a pickup truck and an SUV, Lexus competes in the luxury (or entry luxury) segment where the odds of sedan ownership is quite a bit higher. Lexus’ cars also sell in more markets than the F-Series and at lower volumes, too. The brand can’t afford to paint itself into a corner or stray too far from Toyota’s lead.
However, that’s not to suggest things won’t change if crossovers and SUVs continue growing in popularity. If conventional cars become so niche that they’re entirely unprofitable, no manufacturer will bother building them. That’s not a dystopian future we’re looking forward to and, thankfully, not an idea we have to entertain too seriously at present — even as domestic brands continue planning scaled-back car lineups.
Lexus hopes to actively counter the consumer trend by aggressively marketing the seventh generation ES sedan before it hits dealers late this summer. There’ll be an internet campaign and national television spots leading up to the launch. Ericksen says the model will be priced aggressively to give it the strongest advantage possible, and estimates the sedan should account for roughly 15 percent of the brands’ total sales within the United States.
[Image: Toyota Motor Corp]
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- Cprescott I remember when Fords were affordable.
- Cprescott As a once very LOYAL FORD buyer, I had to replace my 22 year old Ford (bought new in 1997) once it finally started to have problems at 180k miles. I would have gladly purchased something like this from Ford but they abandoned me as a car buyer. Oddly, Hyundai still builds cars in a variety of flavors so I became a customer of theirs and am very happy. Likely will consider another once this one gets up in mileage.
- SCE to AUX A friend once struck a mounted tire that was laying flat in the middle of her lane on the PA Turnpike. She was in a low late-90s Grand Prix, and the impact destroyed the facia, core support, radiators, oil pan, transmission, subframe, and suspension. They fixed it all.
- Dukeisduke Lol, it's not exactly a Chevrolet SS with Holden badging.
- Dukeisduke Years ago, I was driving southbound along North Central Expressway (south of Mockingbird Lane, for locals), and watched a tire and wheel fall out of the bed of a pickup (no tailgate), bounce along, then centerpunch the front end of a Honda Accord. It wasn't pretty.
They are so breathtakingly ugly!
Remains to be seen if Toyota kills off the GS; there's a new Crown (series) so one possibility is transforming the next GS into a lower volume "4-door coupe" (basically a CLS, 5 Series GT and A7 competitor). However, none of the Lexus sedans sell particularly well in Japan, nor do they do so over in Europe, so it's basically the US and China markets. And here, sales volume of the LS and GS are way below what they once were for previous generations of those models.