A Lexus van for high rollers? Dealer makes a case

Hans Greimel is Asia editor for Automotive News.Hans Greimel is Asia editor for Automotive News.
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TOKYO -- Speculation never ends about what new segment Lexus might tap into next: seven-passenger SUVs, entry-level compacts, a new top-end super sports car a la LFA.

Now add one more to the rumor pile: a one-box van.

That’s right, a Lexus van with sliding rear doors.

That, at least, is the request from one of the biggest Toyota-Lexus dealers in Japan. He says dealers throughout Japan, China and other parts of Asia have been petitioning Toyota Motor Corp. to add such a vehicle to the luxury marque’s sedan-rich lineup.

The reasoning: Today’s chauffer-driven executive, politician or other high roller finds the cramped rear seats of the Lexus LS, the brand’s flagship, or the Toyota Century, the staid old-school V-12 limousine usually spotted outside four-star restaurants, too confining.

They need their vehicles to be mobile office spaces, impromptu meeting rooms, executive committee shuttle buses and emergency catnap and clothes-changing venues.

And they need to do it in style.

“If I go out to dinner with four people, I can’t take my chauffeured LS,” the dealer complains. Instead, he takes his Toyota Alphard van, with decidedly less panache. “There is space to change my clothes, and I can go to a funeral and a wedding in the same day.”

Doubt a bulky, top-heavy van fits Lexus’ premium image? You’re not alone.

But Lexus pioneered the premium crossover segment with the RX, the dealer notes. That prompted luxury rivals to follow. And today SUVs are a premium-brand must-have.

Similarly, Lexus can pave a new path with vans, he argues.

Lexus is already busy expanding the lineup. Upcoming additions include the NX compact crossover and the RC coupe. And that may have satiated the brand for now. Asked how Lexus executives responded to the van overture, the dealer said: “They don’t want it.”

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter

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