If only you could go back in time. That’s what Toyota’s North American CEO would like to do when it comes to the Lexus RC Coupe. It’s a sexy halo car that’s doing well for Lexus, but in hindsight, the brand’s top United States executive tells Automotive News that a three-row crossover would’ve made more sense than a sexy sportster.
Jim Lentz, Toyota Motor Corp.’s North American CEO, says a three-row crossover that would rival the Mercedes-Benz GL and Audi Q7 would have been a smarter play. For one, SUVs are selling well thanks to low gas prices and two, it could help Lexus hang on to Gen Y buyers ready to buy a larger vehicle for growing families.
“In hindsight, if I was making this decision 10 years ago, seeing what I see today, the three-row [crossover] probably would have been the better play to come out first,” Lentz told Automotive News. “Strategically that’s a more important vehicle to have than necessarily a lower volume, higher priced image product.”
All this said, Lentz doesn’t call the RC Coupe an out-and-out mistake and is happy with this sale numbers. Lexus has sold 4,258 of them so far this year, beating out the company’s flagship LS sedan. However, those number pale in comparison to what Toyota thinks it could have done with a Mercedes-Benz GL and Audi Q7 rival. Lexus estimates a new three-row SUV could have added 35,000 units to the brand’s annual sales count.
Lentz wouldn’t say whether Lexus was currently working on a new three-row crossover. The automaker currently has two three-row offerings in the GX and LX, but both of those models are truck-based and aren’t as smooth driving or fuel efficient as car-based utility models like the refreshed 2016 RX.
In terms of future strategy, Lentz tells Automotive News that Lexus will approach adding higher priced models to its lineup carefully. The plan seems to be to use just a handful of high-volume near-entry and entry-level cars and SUVS to appeal to about 70 percent of Lexus shoppers.
“I think at some point it’s not sustainable if you end up with just too many body types in your lineup,” Lentz says.
The new Lexus RX, the best-selling model in the brand’s 26-year history, recently went on sale after making its debut at the Chicago Auto Show. It had previous global sales of more than 2.1 million and accounts for more than a third of the brand’s sales.