SHANGHAI -- Toyota Motor Corp.'s global branding chief Tokuo Fukuichi says that as customers flock to crossovers, Lexus sedans need to up their game or risk going extinct.
The luxury marque must respond to new trends two ways, he says:
1. As crossovers handle more like cars do, sedans need to deliver even better driving dynamics.
2. As premium customers become more casual in their tastes, luxury sedans must lighten up to be less formal.
Fukuichi says he even sees room for a Lexus station wagon.
"Unless we can really offer a sedan experience you cannot have with an SUV or crossover, I think the sedan may not be able to survive if it does not evolve," Fukuichi, who also leads advanced design for Toyota Motor, told Automotive News at the Shanghai auto show here in April.
"At a certain point of time, the traditional, square, three-box sedan will go away."
Crossovers and SUVs are winning over customers for good reason, Fukuichi said.
They offer lots of space, they are easy to get into and out of, and the driver position is up high. Most importantly, they drive like comfortable cars now, not like the lumbering SUVs of old.
Lexus can counter by giving its sedans lower centers of gravity so they handle more like coupes or sports cars, Fukuichi said. Steering response also needs to be improved.
The new LC coupe exhibits that kind of sharp steering response, especially at speeds under 20 mph, and Lexus intends to deploy that attribute across the lineup going forward, he said.
"At the initial touch, it needs to respond sharply," Fukuichi said. "The LC is quite close."
Sedans must evolve away from their stodgy roots, he said.