Lexus dealers don't so much miss not having a pure battery-electric vehicle in their lineup to offer to environmentally conscious luxury buyers as they miss not having a big, three-row body-on-frame SUV with luxurious chops to take on the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator, says the chairman of the Lexus National Dealer Advisory Council.
Paul LaRochelle, partner at Sheehy Lexus of Annapolis in Maryland, part of the 29-store Sheehy Auto Stores group, is in his first year as chairman of the Lexus dealer council.
He said the new Lexus LC 500 convertible is the answer to one product missing from the brand's lineup, but a bigger luxury "people mover" is still needed.
"The LX is great; that vehicle will be getting an enhancement soon. But the biggest want right now, unanimously through Lexus dealers ... is to have something in that larger luxury-vehicle segment," LaRochelle said. "That larger vehicle is really a big miss for us in an LUV/SUV world, where gas prices are pretty stable and with the job the nation has done to become energy independent."
As for electrification, LaRochelle said he likes the "wait and see" approach that Toyota Motor Corp., has taken with BEVs, relying instead on broad hybridization of its lineup.
"When we talk about electrification, we consider that hybrid technology, which is something we came to market with first with the RX hybrid. The RX hybrid continues to dominate the luxury-hybrid market," LaRochelle said.
The Lexus dealer council chairman also said that the brand needs to quicken its product cadence, which will improve dealer profitability.
"Profitability comes from having exciting, desirable product. That's not new," LaRochelle said. "That is the silver bullet, and that is what makes us the best brand, from way back when we launched this company 30-plus years ago — having great product in a luxury market that brings consumers in, because it is value priced but with exceptional quality and desirable vehicles."