Next Generation Lexus GX to Become Crossover CUV?

Lexus GX 460

Lexus is considering moving the next-generation GX to unibody car platform and away from its truck body-on-frame underpinnings, Lexus general manager Mark Templin told Wards Auto:

“There is a potential that at some point, when we replace the GX, we can have a car-based SUV,” Mark Templin, group vice president and general manager for Lexus in the U.S., says here during a recent ’13 ES 350 media event.

Lexus has been debating for years a 3-row, unibody, cross/utility vehicle, Templin notes. But the success of the 3-row, body-on-frame GX SUV tempered that talk, he says.

“We were so successful with the GX, nobody wanted to lose the GX.”

It’s not that the GX has no place in the Lexus lineup, but rather that it occupies a position better suited to a different vehicle — there are exceptions to the rule, of course, but the majority of GX buyers have no intention of taking their $50k+ SUV offroading, and would likely be happy to trade that functionality for improved fuel economy and ride comfort.

Something that has always stood in the way of a seven-seat unibody crossover is the RX — a fact that Mark Templin confirms:

“The RX kind of covers a big swath of the marketplace,” Templin says. “We compete with a lot of those smaller CUVs on price point, so we look like a really good value.”

Templin contends the RX also has appealed to those who may shop bigger, 3-row competitors but “don’t necessarily have to have a third-row seat.”

This is a strategy that has made sense for years, but it’s now impossible to ignore the success of 3-row CUVs from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and now Infiniti with their new JX — adding a model to compete against these vehicles may draw customers away from the RX, but at least they would be staying in the Lexus family.

(This is not a move without precedent — the Ford Explorer went through a similar transformation with its current model.)

[Source: Wards Auto]