Future Forecast: The Lexus RC & RC F Coupe

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The Future Forecast is a new series that compiles recent analyst projections about the Lexus brand. In this third installment, we cover the RC & RC F coupe.

When the first-generation Lexus RC debuted at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, it was to great fanfare. This was the first mass-produced Lexus hard-top coupe since the original SC, with a huge opportunity to capitalize on all the excitement generated by the LFA supercar. The buzz only grew louder when the RC F high-performance variant was introduced at the Detroit Auto Show two months later.

Now four years into the production cycle, the RC now exists in a kind of limbo. Reviews never lined up with expectations and sales were never very strong, but in crossover-crazy 2017, the Lexus coupe only managed 7,363 total sales in the USA.

The question stands — what to do with the Lexus RC?

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To start with, there’s no immediate solution. Analysts at Just-Auto are forecasting a mid-cycle refresh this year, while Lawerence Iliff at Automotive News believes it could be pushed to 2019. Regardless, minor changes to the front and rear bumpers will not fix the calls for less weight and more power.

Back in 2014, the LF-C2 convertible concept was revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show — this Solar Yellow roadster looked every bit like the RC, and it was widely expected to lead to a production model. Instead, it caused a minor revolt among Lexus dealer body in the USA, best summarized by this Motor Trend story:

In fact, under the original plan, the RC Convertible was set to be the next all-new car in Lexus’ lineup. As convertibles make up 1 percent of the total U.S. Market, though, the decision to not do a 3-row RX crossover and go with a convertible infuriated the dealers into some sort of angry revolt. Lexus dealers have been howling for a three-row crossover.

Some inside Lexus are furious over this decision because the RC was strengthened (made heavier than it had to be) to be a convertible — and as it turns out, that was pointless. Why else would it use the center section from an IS Convertible?

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The analysts at Just-Auto, Merrill Lynch, and Automotive News all agree on one thing: the next generation RC will debut in 2021 as a 2022 model, using the GA-L architecture shared by all new Lexus rear-wheel drive vehicles. Even so, projecting the automotive industry four years out is an impossible task, and it begs the question — can the RC coupe survive that long?

(There is one final point to consider, and that’s the importance of the RC F in the Lexus global racing program. Should the RC F GT3 race car start to see consistent success, it would go a long way in ensuring the coupe’s survival.)