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My theory is that around 2004 - 2010, Lexus had aspirations of going upmarket and creating more halo/performance vehicles (LFA, IS F, LS 600hL, etc) but this plan changed greatly in the following decade due to several unfortunate events and unforeseen market shifts -- resulting in numerous delays and now, Lexus' current state.So my question is, have Lexus changed their focus to other customer groups? Or is it just a question of extremly bad product cadace? Do not blame it on Covid-19 - other brands is clearly better in their product line, with new products and new teqnology.
What makes me sad is that Lexus raised my expectations with last gen GS, then RC F, GS F and LC. Was all in for them, bying them as soon you could place an order. There was always something special to evolve with and enjoy. And now?!
The early/mid-2000s glory period was fueled by a booming luxury car market, Lexus growth and dominance in the USA as the #1 luxury brand, and logical next steps for a growing luxury marque. This period is where a lot of the love and affinity for the Lexus brand was built - 2IS, IS F, GSh, RX 400h, LS L, etc - but I think of this as the "old Lexus" which is very different from today, and why some people are so frustrated now.
... then you had the global financial/economic crisis and Japanese earthquake and tsunami from 2008 - 2011, which shook everything, but especially luxury goods and vehicles, likely causing Toyota to re-evaluate what Lexus needed to be and would look like in the future. LFA survived but I think this is where Toyota started to pull back on development of Lexus-only projects like GS, RC, etc.
... then the desire for the TNGA movement was born internally which shifted dollars and focus away from one-off projects and platforms to modularized, shared platforms and components, making it more difficult to justify low volume (and RWD) projects. A positive upside of TNGA is that new, state-of-the-art FWD biased/hybrid/AWD chasses and technologies made RWD seem less necessary. This is where it becomes clear that the ES could replace the GS, 4LS life is extended to prepare for what becomes GA-L, and substantial development for a next gen IS is probably scaled back.
... "Experience Amazing" is born as a marketing tagline trying to glamorize the experience of Lexus ownership: a massive shift from what has historically been a product-focused advertising approach for Lexus. This helps buoy sales and brand awareness but among enthusiasts, leads to some confusion about strategy and direction.
... light trucks overtake passenger cars globally, making a nearly impossible case for further, substantial development in RWD (low volume) sedans. GS is cancelled internally and repurposed as Mirai, IS receives minimal budget for a 2021 refresh, LS project continues on with LC for the sake of heritage and keeping face.
... shortly after, it becomes clear that the appetite for electric vehicles is growing and should become a focus point for Toyota going into the future. eTNGA is born, but takes significant R&D commitment to bring Toyota to parity in the space with the eventual goal of being a leader. This investment has to come from somewhere, so I assume this was the third strike against Lexus' high performance/F future.
... Toyota's unibody vehicles were clearly prioritized for the rollout of TNGA, and then later, the concept of a body-on-frame TNGA construction is born for global trucks and SUVs that represent a significant part of Toyota's portfolio: Fortuner, Hilux, Prado, Land Cruiser, etc. This delays the redesign for Land Cruiser, Tundra, LX, GX and 4Runner. Tacoma gets a substantial refresh. Sequoia, previously cancelled, is brought back to the drawing board. This is yet another substantial investment, but one that must be made for the future and likely pulls resources, focus and dollars away from traditional projects (Lexus).
... As all of this is happening, Lexus products seem somewhat forgotten but continue to sell based on their reputations (NX, RX) or enjoy the benefits of being developed in tandem with TNGA Toyotas (ES, UX). However, now that the foundation of TNGA has been set over the last five years, it will soon be Lexus' turn for a reboot with all that has been learned and developed during phase 1 of TNGA.
All of these events created some obvious casualties but also lead to the creation of a very different new Lexus brand going forward. F, gas V8s, sedans and RWD are pretty much off the table or receive minimal investment while core models are redesigned or newly launched. The new Lexus will be CUV-focused, built upon the best TNGA hardware and technology that is available at the time (e-axle, trick AWD, bigger batteries), flexible for gas and electricity, and focused on design. There will still be some passion projects like the LS that are maintained for as long as they are viable, but they will have to shift to meet changing market demands.
It will take some time to see exactly how this new Lexus will come to life, but I think the framework has been set as above. All eyes will be on the new NX and LX launches next year to see what to expect in the future.