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Lexus Struggling to Keep Pace in North America

Lexus LF 1 Crossover

2019 was a down year for Lexus in the USA, with stalling sales and an aging SUV lineup unable to keep pace with competitors — from Chester Dawson at Bloomberg:

Lexus’s 30th anniversary brake-tap is a reflection of its aging vehicle lineup, increased competition and an inability to keep pace with American buyers’ growing demand for larger sport utility vehicles. Two of its SUVs haven’t undergone a full model change in a decade, and the addition of a cramped three-row option to its popular RX model in late 2017 hasn’t won over as many cross-shoppers as hoped.

“Lexus has lost some of its luster,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, who points to gains by rivals such as Hyundai Motors Co.’s Genesis brand. “Genesis is taking that baton. They are what Lexus used to be: affordable, comfy and stress-free.”

The automotive industry has undergone a massive shift towards crossovers, and it appears to have taken Lexus by surprise. The compact UX crossover was late to market and has yet to establish itself in North America, and both the GX & LX are over a decade old.

There is some hope buried in the negativity:

“We know 2019 was a year that we missed it,” Paul LaRochelle, general manager of a Lexus franchise in Annapolis, Maryland, and chair of the brand’s dealer council, said in an interview. “We will see Lexus making significant gains in the market over the next two, three, four, five years and beyond.”

Lexus’s plans include long-awaited updates to existing SUVs and at least one all-new mid-size SUV, he said. “The best way to put it would be a luxury seven- or eight-passenger people-mover.”

Those assurances from top Toyota officials came during an October meeting in Washington, where dealers said the vehicle highest on their wish list is an 18-foot long SUV akin to General Motors Co.’s GMC Yukon Denali XL. “That is one of our primary asks and one that they’re looking at,” LaRochelle said.

It’s unclear if LaRochelle is speaking of two different vehicles, though that would appear to be the case — would Lexus consider extending the LX to fit the North American market? Does this mean the production LF-1 crossover will have three rows?

Also included in the article is a quote from yours truly:

“It’s definitely been a slow time for the brand, and that’s what happens when you don’t have product to talk about,” said Kevin Watts, editor of the influential fan blog Lexus Enthusiast.

Comments
I don't necessarily know that Lexus needs "more CUVs" outside of LF-1, but if NX is pushed out a year, we will see the following new model introductions and redesigns over ~18 months for MY2022-2024.

NX
RX / RX-L?
LF-1
GX [this is a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) and not a car-based Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV)]
LX [this is a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) and not a car-based Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV)]
LS refresh
LC refresh/redesign
ES refresh

... that's a lot, and you'd think Lexus would have learned something from these extended model cycles for GX, LX, LS, IS and product launches that are grouped too closely together. Their product planning is going in bursts, instead of the type of "drip" that helps to maintain showroom traffic and overall momentum via press and media coverage. I am personally worried about the introduction of RX/LF-1 within a tight timeframe. Ideally, NX and RX would be something like ~2/3 years apart to keep their two core models on alternating cycles.
I am not sure how you justify that Lexus needs to be more like the Germans, yet can argue that having 3 car-based crossovers is enough. Crossovers are selling much, much better than sedans, and the German luxury brands (especially Mercedes-Benz and BMW) seemingly have a CUV to meet every niche (both real and imagined) in the market.

Lexus has the subcompact UX, the compact NX and the mid-size RX. MB has those categories covered (GLB, GLC, GLE) plus it has an even smaller model (GLA) and full-size model (GLS), not to mention the crossover coupe models. I have lost track of how many crossovers that BMW offers (my son tried to convince me the other day that there is a BMW X9 model (I don't know -- is there?). If BMW filled every imagined X model niche, it could theoretically have 9 crossover models (assuming my son is correct).

Maybe Lexus does not need to have as many crossovers as the German brands do, but could Lexus be losing customers to the German brands because it is missing a key model in a key market category?
Regarding a ES Prime, not sure if it would be in my price range, but I would. I’m looking to go full BEV but a proper PHEV would be enough for me.
I would be interested in an ES Prime (agreed, absent a full ES BEV model), even though I do not agree with the concept of making plug-in hybrids merely by adding a bigger battery to the equivalent conventional hybrid model. (I would like a plug-in hybrid that is more EV-with-small-range-extender rather than hybrid-with-bigger-battery.)

What attracts me about the Prime model is its ability (I am assuming and hoping) to stay in EV mode for longer (than my ES Hybrid) in the current "shoulder" season, between the warmer summer and autumn seasons, and the truly cold winter season; I want to be able to drive in EV mode for longer while driving in the city (hopefully year-round, from hot summer to cold winter).
I have lost track of how many crossovers that BMW offers (my son tried to convince me the other day that there is a BMW X9 model (I don't know -- is there?). If BMW filled every imagined X model niche, it could theoretically have 9 crossover models (assuming my son is correct).
For now, BMW crossovers stop at X7. There are rumors of a future X8 crossover coupe but this hasn't happened yet. No X9 in the cards, to my knowledge.
They need their CUV alternatives to the GX and LX. If Lexus had built their equivalent Range Rover and Range Rover Sport to their own standards, that would be a really strong addition to the lineup.

Toss in a halo car performance machine, and performance versions of some of the core models, and you're good.

What I don't get is why they don't find some way to standardize the performance models. If the TNGA platform could include some sort of standardized methodology for creating them, products like the RX F, IS F, NX F would do really well. They wouldn't even need to be monsters. Just toss the LS engine into some of these and it would be a nice step up from the standard models.

It would effectively be a simpler approach to the AMG 35/45/xx approach. Certain models that are performance oriented to begin with become monsters, while the rest (aside from the upper level cars which should be monsters) should become competitive in their segment/price point.

Especially with electrification, you should hope that Toyota of all companies could apply performance oriented hybrid technology. Spec-sheet performance is becoming too cheap to ignore.
It doesn't seem like the IS is cannibalizing GS or LS sales so might as well make the 4IS super great and offer a BEV with SSB by 2025. Probably also offer the next gen NX as a BEV to compete with the Tesla Y.

Reading more on batteries and torque vectoring, I will probably prioritize newer battery tech over TV when shopping for a new BEV. Of course at 50-60% off, I wouldn't mind buying used three to five year old BEVs with li-ion batteries but I think I won't be buying a new BEV with current battery technology unless the dendritic problems have been more or less sorted out.
I would be interested in an ES Prime (agreed, absent a full ES BEV model), even though I do not agree with the concept of making plug-in hybrids merely by adding a bigger battery to the equivalent conventional hybrid model. (I would like a plug-in hybrid that is more EV-with-small-range-extender rather than hybrid-with-bigger-battery.)

What attracts me about the Prime model is its ability (I am assuming and hoping) to stay in EV mode for longer (than my ES Hybrid) in the current "shoulder" season, between the warmer summer and autumn seasons, and the truly cold winter season; I want to be able to drive in EV mode for longer while driving in the city (hopefully year-round, from hot summer to cold winter).
I also think the same way as you as Volvo's, VW's, BMW's, Mercedes PHEV's are almost complete jokes... When the battery runs out they are very fuel hungry. Which makes one of my biggest rant with Toyota, they're so far ahead with PHEV's technology and yet remain with a slow rollout.

For what I see/read some of PHEV are so badly engineered they should be more expensive to run than a similar and cheaper Toyota/Lexus Hybrid...
I am not sure how you justify that Lexus needs to be more like the Germans, yet can argue that having 3 car-based crossovers is enough. Crossovers are selling much, much better than sedans, and the German luxury brands (especially Mercedes-Benz and BMW) seemingly have a CUV to meet every niche (both real and imagined) in the market.

Lexus has the subcompact UX, the compact NX and the mid-size RX. MB has those categories covered (GLB, GLC, GLE) plus it has an even smaller model (GLA) and full-size model (GLS), not to mention the crossover coupe models. I have lost track of how many crossovers that BMW offers (my son tried to convince me the other day that there is a BMW X9 model (I don't know -- is there?). If BMW filled every imagined X model niche, it could theoretically have 9 crossover models (assuming my son is correct).

Maybe Lexus does not need to have as many crossovers as the German brands do, but could Lexus be losing customers to the German brands because it is missing a key model in a key market category?
I don't disagree with you, but BBA also don't have GX or LX, so those fill unique niches for Lexus. I think when you look at UX-NX-RX, the one I do see needed above that, as mentioned, is the LF-1. Depending on design, it could serve as a flagship product, 2/3 row crossover, and also compete with the likes of X6, GLE Coupe, Cayenne, etc.
Having seen some unfairly critical commentary in this thread and a few others, towards those of us voicing credible concerns, I opted not to bother commenting at all again and move on.

I will now say something soon, but due to length it will take some time to review, edit and submit.

My first reaction was to totally agree with you, but then I double-checked my constantly-updated tally of @Carmaker1 future Lexus and Toyota predictions. As of now, the 4th-gen Lexus IS is seemingly scheduled to enter production on July 2020 for the 2021 model year. If this hasn't changed, we could see 4IS make its world debut at Geneva 2019, following on the 2IS world premiere there in 2005.


I totally agree. I think that CT will be a one-generation wonder just like HS was. Let me put it another way: I'd be royally pissed if resources and manpower sorely needed for updating all of Lexus' SUV and crossover lineup bar UX, doing something about IS and updating the flagship cars (all higher priorities) were instead diverted towards developing a hardly-necessary 2CT.


While 3IS was introduced at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, IS-related launches have happened all over the world (2IS in Geneva, 3IS refresh in Beijing).


Sadly, this seems to be one of the delayed Lexus SUVs and crossovers. Per @Carmaker1 , 2NX was originally on roughly the same timetable as 4IS I cited in my first reply above, but has now been pushed back a year, until the 2021 calendar year / 2022 model year. Possible delays in setting up Canadian NX production (once predicted for September 2019 but, in fact, officially confirmed for early 2022) may be a factor.
I had stated months ago that the next generation IS is a 2022 model (but...😳😳😳🤬).

I imagine that got lost in one of my very long posts (but wow!)
Hybrids, plugins and alternative fuels are the other part.

At this point, nobody can write off Tesla as a joke or failed experiment anymore. People want electric, and Lexus has nothing to offer.
Writing off Tesla is not the same as writing off plugins, hybrids, or BEVs. Tesla was widely rumored to be in danger of missing payroll until they rushed the Cybertruck reveal ahead and started taking in deposits. Elon is the new Wimpy: he'll ship you something in 2025 for a deposit today.

And if you hate what Lexus is doing, Tesla has concentrated their software efforts on jokey pranks and expanded entertainment options (you can drive while watching Netflix!) while refusing to offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Or to fix Autopilot attempting to forcibly mate the cars with emergency vehicles.
I had stated months ago that the next generation IS is a 2022 model (but...😳😳😳🤬).

I imagine that got lost in one of my very long posts (but wow!)
Sorry, I did totally miss that. Let me edit my long-running list of TNGA future unveilings.
Sorry, I did totally miss that. Let me edit my long-running list of TNGA future unveilings.
No, no. Please don't do that. You'll be shocked at what's actually (possibly) happening. I don't want to give it away, I'll let our messenger do that in IS thread.
No, no. Please don't do that. You'll be shocked at what's actually (possibly) happening. I don't want to give it away, I'll let our messenger do that in IS thread.
I already read the IS thread. I won't go into it here (keep the discussion in the IS thread) but let's just say that I'm flabbergasted. I certainly didn't expect that one...
NX came out in 2014, so pushing to 2021 as a 2022MY makes it a 7 year product cycle... RX came out in 2015, and seems to be on schedule for 2022 reveal as 2023 model year (7 years). If Lexus was wise, they would have launched NX this year as 2021, which gives breathing room between a 2021 NX and 2023 RX. Highlander, Rav4 and TNGA-K are all out now, so the foundation and most of the R&D for these vehicles has been available for some time - not sure why this all seems to be taking so long. Lexus used to work on 5 year product cycles but they've been getting longer and longer - while the competition is moving faster. There is little excuse for this.

I cannot speak to sales of other electric CUVs. Here, Audi eTron is selling very well but last I heard, EQC was delayed. Hard to speak for Genesis when their lineup has no CUVs, and their first one is still a year away. I think the brand has the viability and investment to be a key player, but their product planning has also been shortsighted with only sedans in a CUV market.

Who is asking for ES Prime? Is that a serious question? ES is Lexus' highest volume sedan - do you not think a plugin 300hp version with 40 miles of range would fly off shelves? People still are unsure of battery tech and yet Lexus has the highest perceived reliability by many. Lexus + plug-in/BEV would be a combination that could rival Tesla, mostly because the tech is seen as unproven but there is high trust for Lexus. It seems that Audi and others have enough of a jump start that their technology will likely be perfected and reliable by the time Lexus gets something viable to market.

ES "Prime" with AWD could be a truly game changing vehicle for Lexus, and kill two birds with one stone: plugin/high efficiency, and sporty with great acceleration.
ES sales dropped last year. Not a big drop but still it’s only a year old. So that car needs something.Offer a hybrid F-Sport. A plug in.
I like the ES Prime idea.
ES sales dropped last year. Not a big drop but still it’s only a year old. So that car needs something.Offer a hybrid F-Sport. A plug in.
I like the ES Prime idea.
The ES sales drop may not be because it is a bad car or a bad design; it may have dropped because of the ever increasing interest and demand for CUVs and SUVs, and decreasing demand for sedans. What I am saying is that offering more variations of the ES may not help its sales.
ES sales dropped last year. Not a big drop but still it’s only a year old. So that car needs something.Offer a hybrid F-Sport. A plug in.
I like the ES Prime idea.
ES sales actually went up last year, not down from 48.4k to 51.3k.

Not bad in CUV world... they are going to work on ES in the US since it is being built in local factory and they have to keep it utilize capacity.

In general, this will end up likely being the best selling ES in history since it has expanded to all markets globally so sedan demise in USA wont affect it as much.
I don't disagree with you, but BBA also don't have GX or LX, so those fill unique niches for Lexus. I think when you look at UX-NX-RX, the one I do see needed above that, as mentioned, is the LF-1. Depending on design, it could serve as a flagship product, 2/3 row crossover, and also compete with the likes of X6, GLE Coupe, Cayenne, etc.
if you want Lexus to follow the Germans, they are missing at least 3 SUVs. Cant cop-out now :)

LF-1 being a flagship product, it will sell in numbers larger than LS but nowhere close of RX... they need also large 3 row CUV because no, LF-1 can not compete with X6 and at the same time have large 3 rows (??), they also need something smaller than UX and one that transcends categories - like NX that is more rugged.

LX will never be for US market and it will never be significantly different vehicle - they sell too many middle east, russia, etc.
if you want Lexus to follow the Germans, they are missing at least 3 SUVs. Cant cop-out now :)

LF-1 being a flagship product, it will sell in numbers larger than LS but nowhere close of RX... they need also large 3 row CUV because no, LF-1 can not compete with X6 and at the same time have large 3 rows (??), they also need something smaller than UX and one that transcends categories - like NX that is more rugged.

LX will never be for US market and it will never be significantly different vehicle - they sell too many middle east, russia, etc.
You are making a lot of assumptions and adding a lot of your own information to my posts lately 😉

As I recently stated, I do not see any reason for Lexus to chase the Germans downmarket to cars like 1 series, CLA, A Class, or anything under UX. In an interview about the LF-1 some time ago, one of the designers or engineers mentioned that most people want 3 rows in CUVs, even if they don't use them, so they were considering doing a small shotgun style third row, so TBD. So to your point, no, it would not be three large rows. I think that with TNGA-K, they can squeeze more room out of the RX L next time around, if they choose to go that route with a three row CUV.

Agreed re: LX.
Now I am ready to say something about what I read in this thread and quite a few others that seemed unfairly critical of people expressing VALID concerns about the future of this brand and what seems to be much more attention being given to the Toyota brand side of things.

It is very easy to accuse a number of us of being blindly negative and using "sales" and etc as an excuse to "bash" the brand when that is not the intention of any of us. There is something called constructive feedback.

I extremely resent the condescending tone being espoused towards those of us who happen to be gearheads, in the respect that we love traditional, petrol-powered ICE vehicles and would've liked for Lexus during the past decade, to have gone where their competition was going and offer more choices and configurations in their product line.

We are the enthusiasts, who are people that will buy a credible top notch effort, if it meets the right targets. When some of the general public sees these halo vehicles in person or an social mediq, does that not help get them into the dealer showroom? As in someone who just might settle for a lower spec version of what nameplate we have or cheaper model, because that F car is unattainable, but maybe a IS300 F-Sport or ES 350 will do?

I also really do not appreciate it when those of us who happen to be enthusiasts are written off in the manner of people who would be like the average contrarian hipster on Jalopnik or The Truth About Cars, that pines and whines after the least popular configuration of vehicle, for the sake of being seen as a "different" so that they can feel special. Some stupidly convoluted cult of Automotive Darwinism.

At the prices people pay for these Lexus vehicles, there is NO reason for them to continue settling for old technology and not have the right to complain about wanting something better and more current, without being criticized for daring to question who is running things.

Or have a limited choice in having luxury features in a sporty trim (look at an M-Sport 750i or S63 AMG that can have all the luxury within it too). Is there a reason F-Sport should mean "compromised" in so many cases? Look at the choices offered IS, GS, and LS F-Sport cars in terms having to make sacrifices, thanks to poorly thought out packages designed to cut costs above everything.

Also, if they are not intent on keeping some of their product up-to-date or competitive, then be prepared to start lowering MSRPs or throwing in the incentives, as your vehicles are further outmatched by your market competition.

Until this past week, I almost didn't log into LE ever again upon reading some things that could've easily been directed at me, as if I was an immature pubescent, who didn't know any better about how the very industry I work in operates.

Lexus is easily where it is because of a difficult executive board at Toyota, a CEO who doesn't want be in a position of fighting with difficult colleagues all the time & makes compromises for shareholder interest, and an ineffective brand president who has since been replaced, but not soon enough to make an immediate effect.

We once had something to be immensely positive about in the early days of LE, because we expected Lexus to deliver on near everything coming off the high of the the amazingly innovative 4th gen LS, the off the walls LFA, the LF-LC Concept, Spindle Grille reinvention, grand promises were made for the future 5th generation LS, new IS sized coupe, new compact CUVs, GS-F, and timely redesigns expected in shift to a new modular platform across different model lines.

People were patient and hoped with the LC500 and new LS coming, the new modular architectures would bring new powertrains (competitive & fuel efficient), massive improvements, new class leading interfaces, and all kinds of things would gradually migrate across the lineup, to make up for what couldn't be done in the early-mid 2010s and was respectfully understood by the majority.

Well, a lot of that just didn't happen, did it? And we people are supposed to swallow that again, after a decade of hopes & promises? No freaking thank you, so please don't insult us nor our intelligence, if we bring up valid points. Lexus personnel already do that to a degree officially, by condescendingly brushing off any possible concerns as molehill.

I have said enough honestly, because I've lost patience in taking an interest in a brand, that doesn't want to stay on their toes and be their absolute best.

A pet project in the LC-F is not going to fix that nor did the one-off LFA. A consistently flowing volume line up of excellent product does that. From CT to LX. Top to bottom. I know they can do it.

I had MANY shares in Nissan, in which my family and I each cut loose last year, in sensing a significant collapse in value (which did happen eventually). Infiniti was a deciding factor 15 years ago when my father originally invested in Nissan.

Infiniti is a shadow of what it was in 2005 and we got tired of seeing or hearing about so many future products, that never hit the dealer floor. Infiniti is a revolving door of employees because of this. Everything there has taken a Nissan brand focus and scarily Toyota is almost echoing that.

I can only hope the appointment of the brilliant LC chief engineer, Koji Sato, can make a turnaround over the next 3-5 years and do things that his 2 predecessors couldn't for Lexus.

But I am not going to wait and see. I have a life and I don't like getting invested in things, which produce little to no results.

I left Jaguar because I didn't want to work at Land Rover branch solely instead and I felt all the work I did was going nowhere.

I give Lexus until end of 2021 to meet all my targets (on new & future product on deck at that very time) or will just move on altogether and not look back as I did with Jaguar and Infiniti.

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