The previous SC launched in 1991 as a fixed-roof coupe and offered inline-six or V8 engines. It was replaced in 2001 with the SC430 that had a V8 and a folding hardtop. While the coupe idea may seem like the leading candidate, the company's ambiguity is leading to speculation that the new flagship could adopt a different body-style altogether. "We need a flagship," Lexus general manager Jeff Bracken told Reuters. "It doesn't have to be a sedan."
"In addition to the LS, there could be another flagship in our lineup," Bracken said. "We'll define what it is in January." The comments suggest something will be revealed at the Detroit auto show and could open the door to a new flagship SUV or crossover. That position is currently held by the LX 570, which is closely based on the Toyota Land Cruiser. However, sales of the LX have been less than stellar. From the 14,000-plus units Lexus sold of the original LX 470 when it launched in the US back in 2000, annual sales have dropped to just over 4,000 the last few years.
Mercedes regularly sells over 25,000 of its GL-Class crossovers each year in the US alone. Last year Audi sold 18,000 Q7s here despite its imminent replacement. Land Rover sold nearly 13,000 Range Rovers last year and another 18,000 Range Rover Sports. Meanwhile, Cadillac typically sells between 20,000 and 30,000 Escalades every year, down from the 50,000-60,000 it sold a decade ago.
A facelift is due for the LX that ought to spike sales a little, but Lexus will need more than a refresh to catch up with those rivals. In the meantime, it reportedly plans to roll out a three-row variant of the new RX before its lifespan is over. "We don't want to wait for a next generation" to give the RX the added seating capacity many customers are demanding, said Bracken.