Once little known outside North America, Lexus has steadily increased its rate of success in other regions. There is much more to do though, as sales in the USA and Japan are stuck behind Mercedes-Benz, while in Europe even Jaguar now outsells the brand – quite significantly too. The picture is far brighter in China, where Lexus sits at the top of the charts for imported models, and where local production will finally commence in 2019.
The smallest Lexus car is now eight years old but supposedly set to remain in production for a further 20 or so months. The CT 200h has never made much of a sales impact in any country due probably to the lack of anything other than a petrol-electric powertrain under its bonnet. It has been discontinued in some countries already, notably the USA. Sales in China continue but over the first three quarters, deliveries numbered only 6,778 cars.
There are conflicting reports about what becomes of the CT. Some say there will be a successor model, such a vehicle due for market launch in the final quarter of 2020 as both a five-door hatchback and a four-door sedan. The latter had been considered as necessary in the US and China but with sales of cars still declining in the first of those two giant markets, TMC is said to be considering cancelling the project. Instead, the UX, a new small crossover (see below) would be Lexus’ only C segment model.
If however, a new CT gets the green light, a non-hybrid powertrain might also be offered – something, like the sedan bodystyle, that is not available with the current model. Expect the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine from the NX 300 to also be available. There could also be a fully electric variant.
The 240B shape ES is the brand’s most recently released car. This D segment/midsize sedan shares its TNGA-K architecture with the Toyota Camry and Avalon which are around the same size. It is built – in V6 form – at the same US factory as the Camry and Avalon although on a different line. Kyushu in Japan manufactures the hybrid as well as the four-cylinder variants plus the V6 for countries outside North America.
China was an especially strong market for the previous ES, which is why the new model’s world debut took at this year’s AutoChina, the bienniel Beijing motor show. The cars announced there were the ES 250, ES 350, ES 350 F Sport and the hybrid ES 350h. There is as yet no replacement for the ES 200, a special version of the former ES which was sold in China, Taiwan, Russia and selected other markets.
For years, Toyota has held off from manufacturing any Lexus models in China but this will finally change in 2019 when FAW Toyota begins building the ES. The JV will also make the closely related Toyota Avalon, it was recently confirmed. The ES sedan has been not only the best selling Lexus in China for some time but most months it is also at the top of that market’s imported models chart. Thanks to the popularity of this car, Lexus is ahead of its target to sell 160,000 vehicles in 2018. As at the end of October, total deliveries had reached 132,389 vehicles.
A facelifted ES should come to market during the final quarter of 2021. The next generation model is said to be due in the second half of 2024.
The IS is about the same size as the ES but like the larger GS and LS, it is rear-wheel drive. The third generation model was introduced in 2013 and it did sell well for a time but in the USA, sales have collapsed, only 20,734 having been delivered during the first eleven months. In China, it’s the same picture, with deliveries unlikely to break the 15,000 mark by year end.
Due to potential sales in European markets, if the fourth generation IS goes ahead, there may be a return to offering a wagon bodystyle. A five-door hatchback to challenge the Audi A5 Sportback is another possibility. One or both of these would be in addition to a successor for the sedan.
Job #1 is set for July 2020, sources claimed in 2017. In mid-2018, however, rumours began to circulate that the IS replacement programme might yet be cancelled due to sales of cars falling so acutely in the USA.
The GS is now in the last few months of its life cycle, having been built since January 2012. Sales, never strong, will probably end 2018 at the 6,500 mark in the USA and that’s the car’s number one market. In China, sales for the first three quarters of 2018 numbered just 2,048 units (although the GX – 352 sales – and the RC – 308 – fared far worse).
What plans does TMC have for the GS’ future? This has been a question asked by many in recent times in response to the current car’s lacklustre sales performance. Even though it seemed almost certain that the model would be discontinued, a development programme – 300B – was said to have been restarted. Toyota will reportedly have one more try at finding a profitable niche in the E or Large segment. The next GS is to be reinvented in 2019 with the look of a four-door coupe, in the style of the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. It remains to be seen if the idea of merging the IS and GS successors into one car will be successful.
The latest LS was revealed in January 2017 at the Detroit auto show but sales did not commence until year-end (Japan) and February in North America. Unlike the previous model there is no V8 engine which might be a factor in sales not being as strong in the USA as Toyota had hoped. Generation five is longer and lower, while at 3,125mm, the wheelbase is 35mm lengthier than that of the old LS long wheelbase sedans. The overall length of 5,235mm means this huge car is available in just the one body style.
A facelift for both petrol and hybrid variants is due in 2021 or 2022 and a successor model in 2026. Before then, there should be a fuel cell variant (see below). The next generation LS will almost certainly have an updated version of the existing car’s GA-L platform. A battery-electric LS should be part of the generation six line-up.
Crossovers & SUVs
There is no Lexus crossover which is smaller than the UX which is 4,495mm long, so a competitor for the Range Rover Evoque, Audi Q2, BMW X1, Volvo XC40, Jaguar E-Pace and Mercedes-Benz GLA. Revealed at this year’s Geneva motor show, the ‘Urban Explorer’ is closely related to the Toyota CH-R but is 15cm longer (they share a wheelbase dimension). Sales are about to commence in the USA and there, the new model replaces the CT 200h and like that car, the UX is manufactured by Toyota Motor Kyushu.
The first variants are the UX 200 and UX 250h but Toyota has filed patent applications for a UX 250. Details of what engine will power that variant are not yet known.
Lexus has high hopes for the UX, believing that it can be a strong seller in Europe, especially. The production cycle should last for seven years, so expect a facelift in 2022 and a successor in the northern hemisphere summer of 2025.
Toyota took a long time to enter the segment dominated by the Volvo XC60 but the NX, a 4.6m long crossover, has made quite an impression in both China and the USA since its release in 2014. The front- and all-wheel drive model shares much, including the wheelbase dimension, with the recently replaced fourth generation Toyota RAV4.
The launch versions were the NX 200, NX 200t (2.0-litre petrol turbo) and NX 300h (petrol-electric hybrid). Depending on the market, all three were originally available with front- or all-wheel drive. There is also an F Sport variant. This has a unique grille, lower front bumper, specific alloy wheel designs, sports seats and bespoke interior trims. All are manufactured in Japan at Toyota Motor Kyushu’s Miyata plant.
A facelifted NX had its world premiere at April 2017’s Shanghai motor show. As well as the styling changes, this was the first Lexus to drop the t suffix: the former NX 200t became the NX 300. The second generation model, which will use TNGA-K, is due out in the final quarter of 2020 or the first quarter of 2021.
Even after more than three years of production, the RX remains Lexus’ best seller, especially in the USA, where deliveries are on course to possibly touch the 110,000 mark by year end (98,419 YtD). The next news will be a facelift for North America’s 2020 model year, the updated vehicle likely premiering at next year’s New York auto show.
The 760X series fifth generation RX should again be built in Canada and Japan. Production is likely to begin in the second half of 2021. There will be standard and long-wheelbase derivatives, and there will probably also be a plug-in hybrid or even a fully electric variant. The architecture will change, the new model to be based on TNGA-K.
It would be breaking with the current naming convention for its crossovers and SUVs but Toyota is said to be planning a Lexus called ‘LQ‘. Such a model would be a large crossover in the style of the Audi Q8. The brand’s intentions to enter this segment were signalled by the debut of the LF-1 Limitless concept at this year’s Detroit auto show (see image). Even though ‘KX’ or ‘MX’ would be a more logical name given this model’s presumed positioning just above or below the next generation LX, LQ is the hot tip for this vehicle’s badging. This, after Toyota Motor Sales USA applied for a trademark for those letters in May.
The likely market release of this 5m+ long model would be in 2021. The platform is not yet known. It could be either GA-K, which is front- and all-wheel drive or GA-L, which is rear- and all-wheel drive. Both of these are monocoques, whereas two other Lexus SUVs, the GX and LX, use ladder frame chassis.
The LX, Lexus’ largest SUV, is sold mostly in North America, Australia, Russia and the Middle East, with a small number of vehicles sold in Japan too. The LX 570 replaced the Land Cruiser-based LX 470, debuting at the New York motor show in April 2007 before going on sale in North America in early 2008. There have been multiple changes including two facelifts during what has been a long life cycle.
In many markets, the sole engine is a 283kW (381hp) 5.7-litre V8 but a more powerful supercharged variant has been offered in certain Middle Eastern markets. In 2015, Lexus added the LX 450d in certain markets, such as South Africa, Russia and New Zealand with Australia added earlier in 2018. This variant’s engine is a 4.5-litre biturbo V8.
The next generation of Lexus’ largest SUV will again be twinned with the replacement for the Toyota Land Cruiser. The LX sells well in the US, the Middle East and Russia and to a lesser extent, in Australia and India. There will also be an electrified version, which will probably be a petrol-electric hybrid. Expect the market launch to take place in early 2020.
Hydrogen fuel cell
Other manufacturers have dialled back once-bullish plans for vehicles powered by electricity generated from on-board fuel cells, but not TMC. The Toyota Mirai has been in limited production since 2014 and the company continues to hint that Lexus will offer one or more hydrogen-fuelled models by the mid-2020s. This was specifically stated to the media as the covers were pulled off the Limitless concept at this year’s Detroit auto show, a media release containing these words: “The LF-1 concept could be powered by fuel cell, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, gasoline, or even all-electric. By around 2025, every Lexus model around the world will be available either as a dedicated electrified model, or have an electrified option”.
In May, TMC told the media that it would increase annual production of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles ten-fold, making some 30,000 a year “post-2020”. The company did not name any additional models but it did reveal that of the total, around 10,000 would be delivered annually in Japan.
Several years before it potentially launches a crossover which runs on hydrogen, TMC is expected to build an LS Fuel Cell. This big sedan is said to be part of a range of vehicles which the firm wants to have ready to showcase in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Even though this concept did not have hydrogen power, the LS+ from the 2017 Tokyo motor show is said to have offered a preview of what an LS fuel cell car may look like.
Recent reports for many other manufacturers’ future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.
Future product program intelligence
More detail on past, current and forthcoming Lexus models as well as additional vehicles – including multiple hybrids – which are not in the feature above can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of QUBE.
Daihatsu and Perodua models will be the subjects of the third and final part of this look into the future model plans of Toyota Motor Company.