With a fresh face and solid product line, Lexus is cleaning up pretty well, but that might not be enough in today’s market as North American product manager Mark Templin recently acknowledged.
With a swath of possibilities for the brand, Templin hinted at the obvious: a shrunken version of the popular RX crossovers that could compete with the Mercedes GLK and BMX X3. The small crossover market is heating up like a Bunsen burner in science class and it’s something Lexus desperately needs to get in on, but that’s also far from the extent of products likely to emerge.
Templin also told the Detroit Bureau that Lexus plans to have at least eight hybrids added to its lineup by 2015, if not sooner. Currently the company offers four, though that doesn’t include the soon-to-arrive ES hybrid. With space for three more in the family’s immediate future, it’s hard not to speculate that there will be a production version of the LF-LC concept that debuted in Detroit last January.
Then again, that car might not fit into Templin’s states two-year time frame. That’s because Toyota is reportedly returning to a longer vehicle testing model that decreases reliance on computer simulation after complaints that vehicle quality was suffering. Increased real world testing, Tempin warned, could mean the LF-LC might need as much as four years to reach the market.
So what else could fill the three-car void? The IS sport sedan is the only Lexus sedan left that hasn’t been hybridized, and a likely candidate. Beyond that, the RX line seems like a logical direction. With the RX 450h already available and popular, it wouldn’t be hard to push differently-sized versions in the near future.
As Templin admitted, the company is looking at building a smaller RX, which could be a home run in hybrid form. In fact, it would seem like a necessity if Lexus hopes to complete against the Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTec’s diesel fuel economy.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a larger hybrid utility vehicle could round off the eight-vehicle figure, though neither the GX or LX SUVs would make any sense. Instead, a larger version of the RX with third-row seating and a hybrid drivetrain would be an easy choice because of its shared platform with the Toyota Highlander.
[Source: Detroit Bureau]