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Just-Auto’s future Lexus predictions (December 2018). How accurate are they?

Home / Auto Shows / Just-Auto’s future Lexus predictions (December 2018). How accurate are they?

Every so often, one of the automotive industry-centric websites or organizations will publish Toyota and/or Lexus-centric predictions on the future of their model lineups, timelines for refreshes or new product launches and so forth. In the past, we’ve commented on forecasts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch Car Wars and Automotive News. Now comes a new set of Lexus predictions from just-auto‘s Glenn Brooks, titled Lexus LQ – the Audi Q8 rival and other future models.

Mr. Brooks’ predictions go much further than the LQ, and cover a sizable portion of the current Lexus lineup. (He did, however, miss a few models). As is typical of these exercises in prophecy, the predictions are a hodgepodge of the feasible, the probable, the realistic and the totally nonsensical. Many of them beg comparisons to future Toyota and Lexus product timelines and information posted by Carmaker1, an anonymous industry insider whose posts, updates and predictions are infrequently posted on the Lexus Enthusiast forums. His writings have far more often been right than wrong.

When contrasting the two sets of predictions, the results are, again, all over the map, with full alignment in some cases and diametrical disagreement in others. We won’t be necessarily passing judgement on the veracity of conflicting forecasts. Rather, we’ll be citing key passages and excerpts from the Glenn Brooks Just-Auto article, followed by commentary and insights from yours truly and noting, in some cases, whether Carmaker1 concurs or dissents.

The smallest Lexus car is now eight years old but supposedly set to remain in production for a further 20 or so months.

The current Lexus CT received a second mid-life refresh/facelift (shown below) in mid-June 2017, and, per the above, would end its production life around August 2020. Then what?

There are conflicting reports about what becomes of the CT. Some say there will be a successor model, such a vehicle due for market launch in the final quarter of 2020 as both a five-door hatchback and a four-door sedan. The latter had been considered as necessary in the US and China but with sales of cars still declining in the first of those two giant markets, TMC is said to be considering cancelling the project. Instead, the UX, a new small crossover would be Lexus’ only C segment model.

If however, a new CT gets the green light, a non-hybrid powertrain might also be offered – something, like the sedan bodystyle, that is not available with the current model. Expect the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine from the NX 300 to also be available. There could also be a fully electric variant.

Most of these rumors give me a strong sense of déjà vu, for we discussed them at length in July 2016. Talk of a CT sedan dates back to early June 2014 and none other than Mr. Brooks himself. The relative success of the Audi A3 sedan and Mercedes-Benz CLA (and upcoming A-Class sedan) certainly augurs well for a CT sedan, but the current rapid ascent of SUV crossovers at the expense of sedans says otherwise.

The CT as non-hybrid hot hatch and sports sedan rumors are almost as old, dating back to February 2015 and GoAuto.com.au‘s Byron Mathioudakis. If this came to fruition, though, we wonder if they’d stick with the aging 8AR-FTS or go with a boosted M20A-FTS derivative of the newer Dynamic Force engine family.

Rumors of a fully electric CT are more recent, dating to January 2018 and the Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun.

Overall, Mr. Brooks has simply laid out all the plausible, long-rumored possibilities for the future of CT. Although there’s something tantalizing about a CT sedan if done right, we’ll go with the “UX kills CT” school of thought.

For years, Toyota has held off from manufacturing any Lexus models in China but this will finally change in 2019 when FAW Toyota begins building the ES. The JV will also make the closely related Toyota Avalon, it was recently confirmed. The ES sedan has been not only the best selling Lexus in China for some time but most months it is also at the top of that market’s imported models chart. Thanks to the popularity of this car, Lexus is ahead of its target to sell 160,000 vehicles in 2018. As at the end of October, total deliveries had reached 132,389 vehicles.

Say what?! That Lexus will borrow from its USA playbook and start manufacturing the Lexus ES alongside the Toyota Avalon in China next year (2019) is perhaps the most surprising, unexpected and dubious comment in the Just-Auto article. We should note that intent to manufacture the Lexus ES at Georgetown, Kentucky in the U.S. was first officially announced in mid-April 2013, but the first vehicle did not roll off the assembly lines until mid-October 2015, a full 2.5 years later.

Over the years, rumors of Chinese manufacture of Lexus vehicles have been consistently shot down, and the most recent of these was published less than a week ago (on December 4) by Gasgoo China Automotive News in the clearly titled Lexus denies rumor about local producer in China, with said denials coming from both Lexus China and FAW Toyota.

China’s announced reduction in imported vehicle tariffs from 25% to 15% effective 1 July 2018 further removes pressure for Lexus to commence local assembly of the ES.

A facelifted ES should come to market during the final quarter of 2021. The next generation model is said to be due in the second half of 2024.

This, on the other hand, is an indisputable no-brainer. Lexus ES has been on a 6-year cycle with a single mid-cycle refresh since the 2007 model year.

Due to potential sales in European markets, if the fourth generation IS goes ahead, there may be a return to offering a wagon bodystyle. A five-door hatchback to challenge the Audi A5 Sportback is another possibility. One or both of these would be in addition to a successor for the sedan.

Job #1 is set for July 2020, sources claimed in 2017. In mid-2018, however, rumours began to circulate that the IS replacement programme might yet be cancelled due to sales of cars falling so acutely in the USA.

If the fourth generation IS goes ahead?! Rumors that the IS replacement program might yet be cancelled due to sales of cars falling so acutely in the USA?! Again, color us deeply skeptical that Lexus would abandon the IS and the D-segment sports luxury sedan market that may be down but far from totally out. After all, we’ve just seen the unveiling of a new G20 (7th-gen) iteration of the BMW 3-Series and the entry of the generally acclaimed Genesis G70 from Hyundai’s luxury brand.

Carmaker1 echoed the July 2020 production start for the 4th-generation Lexus IS (400A program), but bear in mind that said information was posted before the newly-rumored mid-2018 IS cancellation.

The GS is now in the last few months of its life cycle, having been built since January 2012…

What plans does TMC have for the GS’ future? This has been a question asked by many in recent times in response to the current car’s lacklustre sales performance. Even though it seemed almost certain that the model would be discontinued, a development programme – 300B – was said to have been restarted. Toyota will reportedly have one more try at finding a profitable niche in the E or Large segment. The next GS is to be reinvented in 2019 with the look of a four-door coupe, in the style of the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. It remains to be seen if the idea of merging the IS and GS successors into one car will be successful.

This flies in the face of recent information posted by Carmaker1 (and seconded by Japan’s Mag-X) that the 5th-gen GS 300B development program was cancelled since the fall of 2016 – around the time of its design freeze – and never revived.

A facelift for both petrol and hybrid (LS) variants is due in 2021 or 2022 and a successor model in 2026… The next generation LS will almost certainly have an updated version of the existing car’s GA-L platform. A battery-electric LS should be part of the generation six line-up.

This is the first prediction we’ve read on the 5th-gen (XV50) LS’s future cadence. Sounds feasible, but bear in mind that its XV40 predecessor was built for 11 years with two facelifts (one minor and one major).

The first variants are the UX 200 and UX 250h but Toyota has filed patent applications for a UX 250. Details of what engine will power that variant are not yet known.

Lexus has high hopes for the UX, believing that it can be a strong seller in Europe, especially. The production cycle should last for seven years, so expect a facelift in 2022 and a successor in the northern hemisphere summer of 2025.

A non-hybrid UX 250 would surely be powered by the A25A-FKS 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine available on the latest Toyota Camry and RAV4.

As with the 5th-gen LS, this is the first published prediction we’ve seen regarding the Lexus UX’s lifecycle.

A facelifted NX had its world premiere at April 2017’s Shanghai motor show… The second generation model, which will use TNGA-K, is due out in the final quarter of 2020 or the first quarter of 2021.

Carmaker1 broadly concurs, predicting that the 2nd-generation Lexus NX (program code 600X) will enter production in July 2020 and go on sale during the 4th quarter of 2020 as a 2021 model year vehicle. The bulk of production for North America is expected to move to Cambridge, Ontario, Canada alongside the Lexus RX.

Even after more than 3 years of production, the RX remains Lexus’ best seller, especially in the USA, where deliveries are on course to possibly touch the 110,000 mark by year end (98,419 YtD). The next news will be a facelift for North America’s 2020 model year, the updated vehicle likely premiering at next year’s New York auto show.

After the reputed dealer revolt over the Lexus LC convertible taking precedence over a 3-row RX, the latter was rushed into production for the 2018 model year. This, in turn wreaked havoc with the 4RX’s midlife refresh traditionally due for its third model year (2019). Facelifting the 3-row RX after a single model year was deemed ludicrous by the powers-that-be at Lexus (and rightfully so).

To manage this unwieldy situation, the 2019 RX (virtually unchanged from the 2018, as shown at left) launched a little early compared to its other siblings in order to accommodate the facelifted 2020’s unveiling at one or more of the major winter/spring 2019 motor shows. These would be Geneva (March 5-6 press days), Shanghai (April 16-17 press days) or, as Just-Auto suggests, New York (April 17-18 press days). The 2020 RX would then go on sale in April-May 2019. The pattern would then repeat for May 2020 (2021 model year).

There is actually precedent for this. The 3rd-generation RX’s mid-life facelift was unveiled at the March 2012 Geneva Motor Show, went on sale on April/May 2012 (2013 model year), and maintained this “early launch pattern” until the April 2015 New York International Auto Show unveiling of the current 4th-generation RX.

The 760X series fifth generation RX should again be built in Canada and Japan. Production is likely to begin in the second half of 2021. There will be standard and long-wheelbase derivatives, and there will probably also be a plug-in hybrid or even a fully electric variant. The architecture will change, the new model to be based on TNGA-K

Both Just-Auto‘s Glenn Brooks and Carmaker1 concur that the 5th-gen RX will launch during late 2021 for the 2022 model year. Of note is that its predecessor will follow an unusual pattern of receiving a mid-cycle refresh on the 4th model year of its 6-year cycle, rather than the customary 3rd year as on the 3RX, NX, 5ES and 6ES. Again, blame the 3-row RX L for that. Speaking of which, note the reference to standard and long-wheelbase derivatives. Is this to be taken literally? Or will 2 and 3-row versions of the 5th-gen RX once again share a common wheelbase?

It would be breaking with the current naming convention for its crossovers and SUVs but Toyota is said to be planning a Lexus called ‘LQ’. Such a model would be a large crossover in the style of the Audi Q8. The brand’s intentions to enter this segment were signalled by the debut of the LF-1 Limitless concept at this year’s Detroit auto show. Even though ‘KX’ or ‘MX’ would be a more logical name given this model’s presumed positioning just above or below the next generation LX, LQ is the hot tip for this vehicle’s badging. This, after Toyota Motor Sales USA applied for a trademark for those letters in May.

Hmmm…I dunno about those names. KX makes me think of kids’ breakfast cereal, while MX would surely draw objections from the manufacturer of the world’s most popular sports car. Consensus seems to be forming that LQ (for Lexus Quintessence?) is earmarked for this premium crossover, while the more recent LM 300h and LM 350 trademarks are meant for a minivan (or multipurpose vehicle) aimed primarily at Asian markets.

The likely market release of this 5m+ long model would be in 2021. The platform is not yet known. It could be either GA-K, which is front- and all-wheel drive or GA-L, which is rear- and all-wheel drive. Both of these are monocoques, whereas two other Lexus SUVs, the GX and LX, use ladder frame chassis.

Carmaker1 suggests that the production LQ (program code 650B) is due in fall 2020 for the 2021 model year. Most pundits (not to mention the LF-1 Limitless concept’s long hood and front fender trailing edge-to-front door leading edge distance) suggest that it will utilize the rear-wheel-drive-centric GA-L architecture.

The LX, Lexus’ largest SUV, is sold mostly in North America, Australia, Russia and the Middle East, with a small number of vehicles sold in Japan too… There have been multiple changes including two facelifts during what has been a long life cycle.

The next generation of Lexus’ largest SUV will again be twinned with the replacement for the Toyota Land Cruiser. The LX sells well in the US, the Middle East and Russia and to a lesser extent, in Australia and India. There will also be an electrified version, which will probably be a petrol-electric hybrid. Expect the market launch to take place in early 2020.

Carmaker1 notes that the 4th-generation Lexus LX (220X program code) should enter production sometime between July and September 2020 for a 2021 model year introduction. The 4LX, along with its Land Cruiser 300 fraternal twin and North America’s 3rd-generation Toyota Tundra pickup truck are the prime candidates to launch the new TNGA-F body-on-frame architecture.

In May (2018), TMC told the media that it would increase annual production of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles ten-fold, making some 30,000 a year “post-2020”. The company did not name any additional models but it did reveal that of the total, around 10,000 would be delivered annually in Japan.

Several years before it potentially launches a crossover which runs on hydrogen, TMC is expected to build an LS Fuel Cell. This big sedan is said to be part of a range of vehicles which the firm wants to have ready to showcase in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Even though this concept did not have hydrogen power, the LS+ from the 2017 Tokyo motor show is said to have offered a preview of what an LS fuel cell car may look like.

Will Lexus literally build an LS Fuel Cell, as in a single functional followup prototype to the LF-FC (shown at right) and LS+ concepts? Even that may be an optimistic scenario, as Carmaker1, again citing Japan’s Mag-X (and its December 2018 issue) informs us that the production program for the Fuel Cell Lexus LS has been cancelled.

THE MISSING MODEL LINES
Notably absent from the Just-Auto predictions is a trio of Lexus model lines, but we’ll hazard our own educated guesses as to what their futures should bring.

The RC just received its first midlife refresh for its fifth (2019) model year. That should tide it over, per Carmaker1, until the 2022 model year (or even the 2023 model year in spring 2022). Beyond that, it may die as a one-generation wonder or defy the odds and see a proper successor, perhaps rechristened IC and be absorbed into the IS family.

Other than will they-or-won’t they speculation on convertible and F variants, we have yet to see any sort of roadmap to the LC‘s future. Assuming a lifecycle of similar length to the 5th-gen LS but keeping in mind that it was launched roughly a year earlier, perhaps 2020 or 2021 will see an LC facelift (a very minor one, we hope) and either a successor model or the end of the line in 2025. That is, though, a very tenuous wild guess.

Like its larger LX sibling, the current 2nd-generation GX has seen an inordinately long lifespan (9 years so far with just a single facelift). And its 10th anniversary should be greeted not with a new generation but with a major facelift that is supposed to tide it over (per Carmaker1) until sometime between autumn 2022 (2023 model year) and the 1st quarter of 2024 when the waaaay overdue transition to the TNGA-F platform finally happens.

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