QOTD: Worthwhile Building a Better Base?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd worthwhile building a better base

The past decade hasn’t been kind to entry-level Lexus cars. From the lackluster HS 250h hybrid sedan (Harmonious Sedan, actually) to the more appealing yet similarly ill-fated CT 200h, hybrid power seems to act as a boat anchor when combined with a lower-priced Lexus.

Yet the brand has no intention of splitting its range between gas-only and electric-only vehicles. Lexus and Toyota still love hybrids, so expect more of ’em. What’s still up in the air, however, is whether we’ll see a new entry-level Lexus positioned below the UX crossover — a vehicle that starts at $33,175 after destination.

What form should such a model take?

Rumors, mostly out of Europe, have floated the possibility of a new base model for much of the year. Lexus still sells the CT 200h over there, but that model’s due for discontinuation in the coming year or two.

Just last week, Lexus veep Koji Sato told Autocar that the brand still needs something on the low end to lure first-time premium buyers into showrooms. It’s possible Europeans, and perhaps even Americans, might see another bottom-rung hybrid, though word of an urban EV runabout under development hints that the newest base Lexus might be a no-gas proposition. Might, as battery-electric propulsion is still nowhere near as cheap as it needs to be for widespread consumer adoption.

Could a new Lexus EV really undercut the UX in price? Highly debatable, unless this vehicle was mighty small and limited in range. But a new hybrid model riding on Toyota’s stiff new TNGA platform would be an easy thing to pull off. Such a model could take many forms.

If you had a hand on the tiller over at Lexus, what would be your decision? Keep the brand’s U.S. lineup the way it is, or slot something below the UX, slapping it with a price just a hair below $30k?

And how do you stop the public from seeing such a model as anything other than a luxed-up Corolla?

[Image: Lexus]

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3 of 29 comments
  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Aug 27, 2019

    I don't see a need for anything other than a UX hybrid and the rumored all-electric hatch. The "low-end premium car" at this point is a subcompact crossover, and the UX is the correct entry point for the brand. Too bad the UX is so much worse inside than the NX (which has a legitimately best-in-class interior), but I guess it's inevitable at the respective price points.

    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Aug 27, 2019

      I agree, anything underneath will either be a loss leader or have to be something cost effective (read: cheap) and at the least not lose money. If they wanted to do something neat and unique go for it but its only going to cost money and for what? Lure a few new buyers, maaaaybe? People know who you are Lexus and they know what they get with you, you're not Cadillac trying to rebuild for the fifth time in three decades. I don't see a move here on the low end of the price spectrum.

  • ThomasSchiffer ThomasSchiffer on Aug 27, 2019

    This car has been noncompetitive in my market from the first day. It was not the lack of AWD which prevented its success. It was the lack of conventional non-hybrid engines that hurt sales and diminished its appeal, which was not a lot to begin with since the Lexus badge does not mean much here. There was also no halo version to combat the S/RS, AMG and M variants of its German rivals. Lastly, there was hardly any marketing for it (Lexus in my country does not seem to produce advertisements at all). Currently it stands no chance against the new Mercedes-Benz A-Klasse (I drove an A200 recently and was very impressed) and even against the aging Audi A3 Sportback, and/or even the new BMW 1er. A new CT with a proper lineup of gasoline, diesel and hybrid propulsion, a fresh design and technology and a more dedicated marketing effort could as a start eventually make a small impact.

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