Lexus NX may challenge RX for brand sales leader outside U.S.

One of the first Lexus NX crossovers to be built is driven off the production line at a ceremony at Toyota's Lexus assembly plant on Japan's southwestern island of Kyushu on Friday, Aug. 8. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

TOKYO -- The new Lexus NX compact crossover, already racking thousands of orders in Japan, may unseat big sibling RX as the luxury brand’s top global nameplate. At least outside the U.S.

The NX went on sale in Japan on July 29, and the company has already booked 8,000 orders in the home market, Lexus International Executive Vice President Mark Templin said.

That compares with an initial monthly forecast of 700 here.

The company has also already notched a year’s worth of orders in Hong Kong and Taiwan, he added. And that comes on top of heavy order flow in Europe, Russia and China, he said.

The vehicle doesn’t even go on sale in the U.S. until November, and Toyota says it already has 5,000 American hand-raisers.

At the NX’s August line-off ceremony in Japan, Lexus General Manager Jeff Bracken forecast U.S. sales of 42,000 in 2015.

“Every market is exceeding our plan already,” Templin said this week at a launch event in Tokyo, declining detailed figures.

Some executives now forecast that the NX could eclipse the larger RX crossover as the brand’s best-selling vehicle outside the United States, Templin said. Its small size is better suited to demand in places like China, Europe and Japan, he added.

Globally, the RX is Lexus’ No. 1, with worldwide sales of 140,700 units last year. But 92,100 were sold in the U.S.

Outside the U.S., the RX is still tops, with 48,500 in sales.

Capacity challenge

The biggest challenge for the NX may be getting capacity.

Toyota Motor Corp. makes the NX only at its Miyata assembly plant in southwestern Japan. Miyata also makes the Lexus CT, HS, IS, ES and RX, as well as the Toyota Highlander and Sai hybrid.

Toyota initially targeted annual NX output of 80,000 units, which would rank the vehicle No. 3 in global and non-U.S. sales behind the RX and ES. But there is room for up to 40,000 more.

Miyata’s annual capacity is 430,000 vehicles.

But in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2014, before adding the NX, the plant built just 310,000 units. And by dialing down output of the slow-selling HS and Sai, Toyota may eke even more volume.

You can reach Hans Greimel at -- Follow Hans on Twitter: @hansgreimel



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