NEW YORK - Toyota Motor Corp. has given a strong hint at the design of its replacement for the Lexus IS 300 sport sedan - in the form of coupe.
The LF-C, which stands for Lexus Future Coupe, was unveiled at the New York auto show this month. The concept car suggests that the IS 300 successor will continue to compete as a pure sports vehicle, while Lexus' ES 330 will chase the "comfort luxury" segment.
Lexus General Manager Denny Clements says entry-luxury vehicles at other brands are too much of a compromise between the comfort and sports sides of the market.
The current IS 300 has been a sales disappointment. Lexus sold just 2,457 units through the first quarter, down 27.5 percent from the year-ago quarter. "The IS is important to us, but I don't see us selling 10,000 a month like BMW does with the 3 series," Clements says.
The current version is sold only as a sedan and wagon with one engine option. Clements wants the new edition to have sedan, coupe and convertible choices with multiple engine options.
While the LF-C has a V-8 engine, Clements says the production version probably will not. More likely is a choice of small- and large-displacement six-cylinder engines, much like BMW does with the 3 series.
The LF-C design took 10 months from first sketch to completed concept, says Kevin Hunter, director of Toyota's Calty design studio in California.
While the hard points, interior and engineering are firm, the final exterior design is still being fine-tuned. It could be influenced by consumer reaction at the show, Clements says.
The LF-C takes a bigger design risk than previous Lexus concept vehicles.
Clements says the coupe is meant for younger buyers. "It can be polarizing, because the rest of the lineup can be universal," he says.
The production version of the IS coupe will arrive in late 2005. Unlike the last IS 300, which arrived earlier in Japan and Europe than in America, Clements says a global launch is planned.