Lexus Says It’s Sticking With Cars, Despite the Scorching SUV Market


Image: Toyota Motor Corp

Ever since Ford announced its abandonment of traditional passenger cars that aren’t the Mustang, automakers have been very clear to specify whether or not they plan to do the same. The majority seem to feel as if cars have a place in the market. That said, very few manufacturers are increasing sedan output when crossovers and sport utilities are presently so lucrative. For example, Lexus owes the majority of its volume to higher-riding liftbacks, but recently made the promise to maintain a diverse production portfolio.

Accounting for roughly one third of its total volume, cars aren’t the brand’s biggest money maker anymore. But Toyota’s luxury arm believes ditching them now would be an imprudent strategy. Perhaps Lexus is keeping an eye on fuel prices, or maybe it just realizes it can’t play the game in the same manner as the already truck-focused Ford. 

According to Lexus’ vice president of marketing, Cooper Ericksen, the official reason for staying with cars has everything to do with the customer. “The fact is there is and will continue to be a very important role for sedans,” Ericksen told The Detroit Bureau during a press event for the 2019 ES model in Nashville, Tennessee. “Half the buyers of SUVs also own a sedan.”

Presumably, this was an issue Ford also had to come to terms with. While a Ford shopper is probably more likely to own a pickup truck and an SUV, Lexus competes in the luxury (or entry luxury) segment where the odds of sedan ownership is quite a bit higher. Lexus’ cars also sell in more markets than the F-Series and at lower volumes, too. The brand can’t afford to paint itself into a corner or stray too far from Toyota’s lead.

However, that’s not to suggest things won’t change if crossovers and SUVs continue growing in popularity. If conventional cars become so niche that they’re entirely unprofitable, no manufacturer will bother building them. That’s not a dystopian future we’re looking forward to and, thankfully, not an idea we have to entertain too seriously at present — even as domestic brands continue planning scaled-back car lineups.

Lexus hopes to actively counter the consumer trend by aggressively marketing the seventh generation ES sedan before it hits dealers late this summer. There’ll be an internet campaign and national television spots leading up to the launch. Ericksen says the model will be priced aggressively to give it the strongest advantage possible, and estimates the sedan should account for roughly 15 percent of the brands’ total sales within the United States.

[Image: Toyota Motor Corp]