PLANO, Texas -- Hindsight and low gasoline prices have Lexus wishing it had invested in a large three-row crossover first rather than in its sexy coupes, according to Jim Lentz, Toyota Motor Corp.'s North American CEO.
In an interview with Automotive News at Toyota's temporary headquarters here, Lentz acknowledged that it would have been wiser to resist dealers' calls for an image vehicle like the sporty RC coupe and instead build a rival to the Mercedes GL and Audi Q7.
Such a vehicle would do more to help Lexus hang on to the crucial Gen Y crowd as they begin to have families and shop for a bigger hauler that handles like a car. Lexus' current three-row offerings are the truck-based GX and LX SUVs, while its top-selling RX crossover seats five.
"In hindsight, if I was making this decision 10 years ago, seeing what I see today, the three-row [crossover] probably would have been the better play to come out first," said Lentz, who has stationed himself at an office in Texas as Toyota prepares to move its headquarters to a new corporate campus here from Southern California.
He added: "Strategically that's a more important vehicle to have than necessarily a lower volume, higher priced image product."
Lexus wouldn't confirm last week whether such a vehicle is under study, but dealers have been clamoring for it. "Third-row seating is the No. 1 issue we hear from dealers," Lexus division chief Jeff Bracken told Automotive News last year. "We feel like we're missing a 35,000-units-a-year opportunity. We're working hard to rectify that."