Lexus Boss Wants More Body-on-Frame Lexus SUVs to Get in on That Ford Bronco Hype
The pandemic made off-roading explode in popularity, and with the Toyota Land Cruiser leaving the U.S. market, it's Lexus' time to shine.
The most-hyped vehicles of the moment from the Ford Bronco to the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 to the Ram 1500 TRX are all meant to go off the pavement, and Lexus wants a piece of that action, reports Automotive News. The beloved Toyota Land Cruiser leaves the U.S. market after the 2021 model year, opening up a spot for Toyota's upscale marque Lexus to shine with new hype-worthy body-on-frame SUVs to fill the void.
Many took social distancing to the extreme during the coronavirus pandemic, as activities like camping, crawling and overlanding that got you out of the house and far away from other people blew up in popularity. One of the people who took notice of this phenomenon—and all the deposits pouring in for the Ford Bronco—was Lexus brand head Andrew Gilleland.
"Holy cow! They sold out that thing, and I think there's a strong market out there for authentic off-road chops and credibility," Gilleland told Automotive News. "We're seeing that with [the Toyota] 4Runner as well. I don't think it's any secret that [the 4Runner] is not all that new, but it continues to set records and it continues to grow volume."
If there's any company that has the technology and the know-how to do a great body-on-frame SUV, it's Toyota, and Gilleland wants Lexus to do more.
"We have body-on-frame vehicles that would lend themselves to that type of execution, if we decide to go that way," Gilleland explained to Automotive News. "You know, for me personally, I'm an outdoorsman. I would love to see us do it. I think it's a viable business model."
Lexus will continue selling its LX SUVs after the Land Cruiser's departure and Toyota is keeping the 4Runner around, but for those of us hoping for something new, it sounds like Lexus is the most likely place to look.
"There's still a thirst out there for body-on-frame and authentic off-road [capability], so it's something we're exploring," Gilleland told Automotive News.
The Land Cruiser, which has been sold in the U.S. since the first year Toyota entered our market, hasn't been a huge seller in recent years, but it's been a consistent niche favorite, as Automotive News notes that Toyota sold an average of 2,979 Land Cruisers per year in the U.S. over the past 15 years. In recent years, however, it's been outsold by the Lexus LX, hence the decision to keep its pricier twin around instead.
Toyota as a whole has Lexus' back on the idea of expanding its body-on-frame SUV lineup, too.
"What we have seen at Toyota is that there's so much of an appetite for [off-roading] that I see that [moving into] the Lexus brand as well," Toyota Motor North America Head of Automotive Operations Jack Hollis told Automotive News. "There is an appetite, a customer desire, a customer push to see all brands giving them more options. I think it would be silly for Lexus not to travel down that path."
Lexus dealerships have noticed a hole in their line-up for another SUV for a while, and that modern ideas of luxury can include a seriously capable off-road toy, Hollis told Automotive News.
Toyota Motor North America's statement to Automotive News on the Land Cruiser's departure backs up their commitment to have something in the lineup to scratch that big SUV itch:
"The Toyota Land Cruiser has been a legendary name for more than 60 years. While it will be discontinued in the United States after the 2021 model year, we remain committed to the large-SUV segment and will continue to explore future products that celebrate the Land Cruiser's rich off-road history. We encourage loyal enthusiasts and intrepid adventurers to stay tuned for future developments."
Some of us want a little more luxury when we're off the pavement, and whether it's a new Lexus that could pick up where the legendary Land Cruiser left off or a completely new model for the brand, you have our attention.
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