By on September 20, 2018

2018 Lexus LC500h - Image: Lexus Canada

Unless your surname is Porsche and your given name 911, the sales volumes generated by premium two-doors are frighteningly small. Lexus nevertheless brought to market the two-pronged Lexus LC range, as an indirect successor to the SC, with lofty expectations.

Moreover, Lexus was public with its goals, going so far as to respond directly to TTAC to defend the company’s reasoning.

If early figures were all we had to go by, the initial hype surrounding the $90K+, V8-engined LC500 and its hybrid LC500h sibling indisputably produced goal-besting results. More than a year into its tenure, however, it’s now clear that the LC has fallen wildly short of fulfilling Lexus’ hopes.

It was internal reactions, auto show response, and customer clinics that persuaded Lexus of the LC’s U.S. sales performance possibilities. “The first time I saw this car,” then Lexus division manager Mark Templin said of the LF-LC Concept in 2012, “I was speechless.”

“Our confidence started with the tremendous response to the LF-LC show car that debuted at the Detroit Auto Show in 2012,” Lexus communications manager Nancy Hubbell told TTAC last year. Then came a “dynamic clinic” in 2016 where Lexus heard feedback from customers that suggested “the LC will be a strong player in the luxury coupe market.”

The result was a 400 per month sales goal for the LC range. Lexus even stated its capacity to supply the United States with 500 LCs per month if demand was sufficient.

It wasn’t. It isn’t. It won’t be.

Just as the B&B predicted.

Comments on the early LC story included one from dal20402: “Setting a goal like this is just setting Lexus up for the unnecessary perception of failure.” badhobz said, “Dumb move. I don’t think it’ll do that well.” This was the general tenor of responses to Lexus, though there were some believers, and some, like stingray65, who thought Lexus could live up to its internal expectations for perhaps 4-6 months.

It turns out the LC was only capable of sustaining that high level of demand for two months. 419 were sold in May 2017. Then Lexus moved 423 in June of last year. A 402-unit month in July 2017 marked the end of Lexus hitting its target. Over the last 13 months, Lexus’ monthly average has fallen 48-percent shy of the 400-unit expectation. In the doldrums of winter, January and February combined for a paltry 304 total LC sales.

2018 Lexus LC500 red - Image: Lexus Canada

Granted, the Lexus LC is outselling the more costly Mercedes-AMG GT by more than 50 units per month and sells roughly as often as Mercedes-Benz’s SL-Class. The Lexus generates more than four times the volume of the aged and more performance-oriented Nissan GT-R.

On the other hand, with its vast 911 range, Porsche is on track for a three-year sales high of nearly 10,000 units, producing twice as many sales in an average month as Lexus did LC sales at the car’s peak.

That, of course, is an unfair comparison. Nothing competes with the 911. It’s in another league.

The Lexus LC, however, was supposed to compete with itself, and with the company’s own internal expectations.

No can do.

[Image: Lexus]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Driving.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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46 Comments on “You Thought Toyota’s Lexus LC Sales Expectations Were Inconceivable … And You Were Right...”


  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Man, I can’t help but like this car. My normal style is understatement, but there’s something about it that grabs me, and the interior is opulent and ballsy in a way that the competition isn’t.

    Plus, there’s something contrary about this car in every direction. You make a bunch of money and buy a 911, and you’re giving the finger to people who say you shouldn’t buy expensive stuff; you buy an LC and you’re giving the finger to them *and* to people who look down their noses at anything that isn’t a *serious sports car*. It’s a win-win!

  • avatar
    deanst

    I remember drooling over the SC300 as a kid. This thing…..meh.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Have you seen it in person? In a sea of crossovers and mainstream sedans it is striking.

      Never the less, anyone surprised by its sales numbers needs their heads checked. Lexus needs a road focused crossover above the RX.

      • 0 avatar
        Liger

        It really is a stunningly beautiful car in person. I saw one drive by in a rough neighborhood in DC and was like wow, what a beautiful car. As it drove past me, I noticed that the guy had two mudflap girl silhouettes on his rear bumper that some truckers have on their rigs. I found it hilarious that he drove a hi so car like that, but with such tacky taste.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Raise it up, put some 20s on it….it will sell.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    I think these are neat to look at, but how many people are shopping in this segment? Lexus/Toyota’s 4 coupe strategy (LC, RC, Supra, 86) doesn’t make any sense to me.

  • avatar
    RSF

    There’s nothing wrong with having the LC in the lineup. Expectations just need to be realistic. Same as the SL and AMG GT.

  • avatar
    gtem

    At least this thing is engineered in-house and looks and sounds great. I’m reading that the new Supra is basically a rebadged BMW Z4, complete with a Bimmer motor and even Bummer interior. What an embarrassment and sullying of the Supra name to outsource the entire vehicle like that in the name of cost savings and synergies.

    • 0 avatar

      But they let Toyota do the styling it seems. I’ve seen the new BMW, and it looks like a Lexus with a BMW nose on it. There’s nothing Germanic about the exterior of that car.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      The Supra name? Sullied by it being designed and engineered by BMW? For the past 20-going-on-21 years the Supra has been nothing BUT a name in the US, while BMW builds and actually sells Z4s to the present day. Moreover, the Supra they stopped selling here in 1998 was basically still a warmed-over version of the original 1993 car, while BMW continues to update the Z4 every so often…as a matter of fact, BMW’s release of the 6th-gen Z4 is the ONLY reason there even will BE a Supra again.

      Your personal belief system may stipulate that the Toyota nameplate carries more cachet than does the BMW one, but I don’t think you’ll find that’s widely shared.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I didn’t mean it as a dig at BMW but as disrespect by Toyota for their own engineering and performance heritage. But since you mentioned it, what production BMW had higher performance than a Supra in the mid 90s?

        • 0 avatar
          Fordson

          Toyota has to outsource the whole car to get the kind of performance in that price bracket the Z4/Supra will be playing in…they don’t really do performance cars anymore.

          They used to make a whole raft of interesting performance cars in the 90s…but not anymore. I mean, they’ll sell you a 300 hp FWD Camry, but that’s about it.

          Toyota’s performance heritage has been pretty much an on-and-off thing…BMW has been doing it nonstop for 50 years.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            They managed to make the budget friendly 86, they make a sporty RC350, and the LC500 at the high end. That they couldn’t at least put their own motor in this Supra reeks of a cop-out in the name of easy cost savings. I’d rather see them beef up an RC350 with a twin turbo or engineer a new straight six and stick that in there. I’m inclined to agree that they’ve ignored this space for a long time and lost their mojo.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            The Supra’s engine was usually shared with various other Toyota models, especially in the JDM. Does that not reek of cost savings? My point is, its never had a dedicated engine, and at this time, not many RWD Toyotas are left to share engines with, especially an I-6.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            The point is that they’re outsourcing the entire engine (the entire car, actually) to a different auto manufacturer for their own halo sportscar, that’s what doesn’t sit right. It’d be like a Mustang using a chevy LS motor from the factory, or being “codeveloped” where the result is a Mustang with a Camaro body, Camaro interior, Chevy powertrain. I suppose they might claim that they kept it I6 like every other Supra gen, but I’d still say that it’s just not right to make your flagship sports car an outsourced designed/engineered car.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      The Supra name has usually meant Camaro performance at a Corvette price. I’m sure the new one will live up to that legacy.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    This is Lexus’ halo car in my eyes. The interior design is worth every penny of the asking price, and the outside is downright slinky. Looks great in pearl white, atomic silver, and that purplish blue they sell.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    If I can pick the right 6 numbers it is at the top of my list!

    Pure industrial art in motion.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Tesla misses its stated production targets (~20k per month) and get blasted by the B&B, yet it can’t build cars fast enough.

    Lexus can’t even sell this turd (~400 per month) and gets nothing but love here.

    Got it.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      ICE runs deep.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Did Lexus promise to build x number and then fail to build them? Yeah, its totally the same thing.

      I also don’t remmeber Lexus promising to “disrupt” the industry with this car. And, if Toyota says it can build x number of Corollas a month, I’m quite sure they will. But, a premium coupe and a mainstream sedan are totally the same thing, just like promising to build a certain number and predicting to sell a certain number are.

      Got that?

  • avatar
    slavuta

    TTAC – 1 : Lexus – 0

    At least it invented “Lexus Cash”, which amounts to $5K on the hood currently. Will they deal it to me for 75K?

    • 0 avatar

      Slavuta, you can currently buy a low mileage CPO LC500 for not much more than that. Over 25% depreciation in one year does not bode well for long term price durability, not very encouraging unless you plan to buy a preowned one.

  • avatar

    Full-size V8 luxury coupe, made in Japan.

    It IS what I want. It is.

    They’re striking in traffic, stand out equally against something like a Lamborghini.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    The grille is hideous and the diameter of the wheels give the vehicle a cartoonish look. On the bright side, it’s not a vapid, ghoulish CUV. Throw a bra on the front end and downsize the dubs and you’re in business.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    There are these fat UAW guys in Kentucky that build a…

    An answer to a question dozens asked. Let’s build a halo sports car and make it a Lexus because of the great heritage and target demographic in the two-door luxury sports car that Lexus has.

    With some decontenting to get the price down while having a luxury nod this would have sold better as a Toyota. Nissan can move $90K GT-Rs (well they use to), Chevrolet can move $100K Corvettes, and Dodge can move $70K Chargers.

  • avatar
    robc123

    When I first saw it on the street- WOW!. Then in the dealership, sat in it, looked at it, started it, not moved to test drive it. Got the impression that it’s big, heavy and soft.

    For the money, the Evora 400, or even less cash- Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio with a Ferrari derived engine. So much more fun- I like driving the Alfa SUV better than the idea of the LC.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      It’s a big honkin’ GT luxury car. It’s not supposed to compete with an Evora; complaining that it doesn’t is like complaining that you can’t carry a 4×8 sheet of plywood in it either. So what? I rather like that it doesn’t pretend to track glory. Putting street cars on the track is pointless; the LC is great *because* it does big-fast-luxurious-street-car without having to pretend it’s a racecar too.

  • avatar
    Fred

    You know there are a lot of fancy luxury cars out there. Maybe we have reached peak rich guy rides.

  • avatar
    ilkhan

    The car is gorgeous, its just not a big market and Porsche dominates what sales there are.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    They seem to have sold a few around here. Love this car, love the presence it has on the road. I drive an old GS400 and I love that Lexus went with a V8 like my car, instead of succumbing to V6-turbo. V8 just has that cadence and that roar nothing else can match.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I couldn’t afford one of these, but it would be up at the top of my list if I could. But, even though I like it a lot, it’s a “Butterface” car, where the front end uglies up a great design, and I would probably pass on it because of that alone, as I would tire of it like I tire of silver and grey colored vehicles. I don’t understand why Lexus sticks with the electric shaver look. A body colored horizontal bar splitting the grill in two would help tremendously, along with changing the grill itself to a black or more open design. It’s so close, yet Lexus doesn’t see it. And like every Lexus vehicle, it’s overpriced, IMHO.

  • avatar

    A quick google search reveals nine near new low mileage lc500‘s offered for under $80,000. Another one or two seem to appear each day.

    • 0 avatar
      Noble713

      Recently a friend of mine heading back stateside was online car shopping for a new luxury/high-performance ride. I was flabbergasted at how inexpensive used vehicles in the premium/luxury segment are in the States (stuff like Maseratis, Porsche Cayman, Aston Martins, various older AMGs…).

      This Lexus is absolutely gorgeous and has neck-snapping road presence in person, but I think it has some extremely stiff competition Stateside.

      They also have a ~$25k price premium in Japan -_-, even taking the currently favorable exchange rate into account, so it’ll be a LONG time before I can park a high-mileage one of these in a garage next to my Supra.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    My Lexus dealer keeps one in front. It’s all they really need to do. The car looks even better in person. Bring your quarters there’s an Aldi across the street.


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