NEW YORK -- Lexus hosted a party at a trendy Chelsea nightspot last month to launch a global ad campaign, but brand bosses also fueled speculation on what's next in the lineup.
A decision on a new nameplate, to be built in Japan starting late next year, already has been made. Without tipping their hand, the execs pointed to some possibilities, based on their views of what the brand needs.
Here's the production shift that's making a new model possible:
Output of 50,000 Lexus ES 350s per year will begin at Toyota Motor Corp.'s Georgetown, Ky., plant in 2015. The factory in Kyushu, Japan, that currently builds the sedan will continue to make the ES 350, as well as the ES 250 and 300h hybrid, to meet U.S. and global demand.
But the Kyushu plant also will get the new nameplate in late 2014 to make up for the volume it will lose to Kentucky.
Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda, sidestepping specifics on what's ahead and what's needed, said Lexus needs something "more exciting, more exhilarating." But Lexus International Executive Vice President Mark Templin got a little more specific about what might be built in Kyushu, offered these thoughts on two areas in which he feels Lexus is lacking.
Sports coupe: "The coupe market is about the same size in the United States and Europe," Templin said. "It's not an enormous market, but it's an important segment in terms of what it does for image. I think a coupe could change perceptions of our brand and make us a more emotional brand and potentially reach younger buyers."
Crossover: "The RX actually does triple duty today. It covers its own segment, it covers a smaller [crossover] segment, and it covers a larger segment," he said. If a new crossover nameplate "were smaller than RX or bigger than RX, it would still increase sales. You'd get some cannibalization, but the net would be a sales increase."