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Lexus GX and LX future may be in doubt

Tightening Regulations Threaten Traditional SUVs

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With the debut of an all-new RX, Lexus is in a position for continued strong sales in the luxury SUV arena. The fourth-generation RX has grown, making room for the new NX model beneath it. But further up the ladder, things could change for the GX and LX.

In an interview with Autoblog at the 2015 New York Auto Show, Lexus executive vice president Mark Templin gave some hints at the future of his brand's SUV lineup. "With NX and RX, we have a really good one-two punch in the crossover segments, and we think we can cover most of the markets with that," he said.

As for the larger, three-row GX and LX models, which are built on a traditional ladder-frame chassis, things aren't so clear. Templin noted the the success of both models all over the world – the LX is the best-selling Lexus in Saudi Arabia. The same is true for sales here, he said: "We do very well with those products in the United States – GX has been a great product for us in the US for the last couple of years since its initial introduction. But the future of those vehicles longer term is in doubt because of regulations that are being driven by governments all over the world."

Don't start stockpiling LX 570s in anticipation of shortages just yet. Templin didn't give any specifics; he just notes that tightening fuel economy and emissions regulations could affect product planning. In our analysis, if and when GX rides off into the sunset, Lexus still needs a midsize, three-row SUV to fill that gap. The most likely candidate for that is some variation on the RX.

Whether or not that's the case, don't expect a BMW-like proliferation of body styles from Toyota's luxury division. "It creates problems. It creates complexity, that's hard for every step of the process," Templin said, nothing that too many models stresses the design department, manufacturing, and even dealers inventory selection.

As for the bottom end of the lineup, Templin wouldn't comment on a compact SUV below the NX, saying "I think there are more potential options for us in the future, but we're not trying to grow the number of models we have in our lineup. It's not really what our core business is about." For now, Lexus and Templin are focused on launching the RX, which accounts for three of every 10 Lexus models ever sold. The 2016 model, available in RX 350 and RX 450h hybrid versions, goes on sale by the end of the year.

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