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10 Hottest Debuts at the 2015 NY Auto Show

Compacts and full-size luxury; hybrids and high-performance supercars.

by on Apr.06, 2015

The Cadillac CT6 makes its NY debut.

The turnstiles are now open at New York’s Jacob Javits convention center, spinning rapidly as the crowds rush in to check out all the new sheet metal on display at the annual NY International Auto Show. team was on hand for all the unveilings at last week’s media preview, a two-day extravaganza that saw more than two dozen different unveilings. Some of the new models played it safe, others are simply forgettable. But there also were plenty of surprises and significant debuts.

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Here’s our list of the Top 10 Debuts at the 2015 New York International Auto Show. Click on the product names for more complete coverage.

Lexus Goes for Goosebumps with 2016 RX

by on Apr.01, 2015

Lexus debuted the RX450h and RX350 at this year's New York International Auto Show.

Picking up on the more aggressive design language it has adopted for recent models like the RC Coupe, Lexus is bringing out a fourth-generation RX crossover that is designed to raise the “goosebump” factor.

Making its debut at the New York International Auto Show, the 2016 Lexus RX boasts a longer wheelbase, a more lavish interior, and plenty of new digital technology – including a new, low-cost package of collision avoidance features. But it’s the revised design likely to draw attention, especially among the young car buyers Lexus has been heavily targeting lately.

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“We gave our designers and engineers more freedom to focus on the things that … elicit an emotional reaction and bring out the goosebumps,” said Mark Templin, the executive vice president of Lexus International. (more…)

Toyota and Lexus to Introduce Low-Cost Auto-Braking System

Wider availability, lower price expected to spur demand.

by on Mar.30, 2015

Toyota Safety Sense is designed to support the driver’s awareness, decision making and vehicle operation over a wide range of speeds.

Toyota has two big SUV debuts planned for this week’s New York International Auto Show – but some folks may be more focused on the Japanese maker’s big safety news.

When the next-generation Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and Lexus RX models come to market later this year, they will offer new, low-cost automated braking packages that, the maker hopes, will bring this technology within reach of a mass audience.

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“Pushing these systems across our lineup, as quickly as possible, can help protect people in the event of a crash,” said Jim Lentz, president and CEO, Toyota Motor North America. “More importantly it will help prevent some crashes from ever happening in the first place.” (more…)

Lexus Counts on F Sport to Improve Sales

Line-up competes against luxury sport models.

by on Aug.01, 2014

Based on the success of its IS F Sport line-up, Lexus is expanding the portfolio to the NX and RX models.

The F Sport models will play a bigger role at Lexus going forward.

The F Sport version of the new Lexus IS 250 and Lexus IS 350 has been a major success, accounting for roughly half of all sales of the new IS Lexus last year according to Owen Peacock, Lexus’ national marketing manager.

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“The F Sport makes up 50% of the IS sales mix and the average buyer is five to 12 years younger for the than standard model,” he added. (more…)

Lexus LF-NX Creates Buzz – and Plenty of Controversy

Compact crossover is “a stake in the ground,” said Lexus boss Templin.

by on Sep.11, 2013

The Lexus LF-NX may be the single most controversial vehicle to debut in Frankfurt this year.

Lexus has been hinting for some time that it would like to enter the fast-growing compact crossover segment.  While that is far from a controversial decision, the LF-NX compact crossover concept it unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show is an entirely different matter.

While the show car was the object of much interest and attention during the Frankfurt media preview — journalists and competitors alike lining up to take the design in and snap pictures – few vehicles in recent memory generated nearly as much debate or derision.

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“Lexus has seven concept cars at the show – but they’re all in one vehicle,” cracked a senior designer at a major European luxury maker, asking not to be identified by name.

The object of that scorn – and a few kudos, as well, one needs to point out – is the first in what senior Lexus officials suggest will be a series of concept cars designed to test the waters and confirm that Lexus does belong in the compact crossover segment.


Cadillac Takes Aim at Lexus

Compact CUV could undercut rival’s crossover dominance.

by on Aug.30, 2012

Cadillac's new ATS may soon have a lot more company in the showroom - including a compact CUV.

Once the reigning U.S. luxury brand Cadillac is eager to reclaim lost ground and has put a target on the back of Lexus, which was itself the best-selling luxury brand until last year’s Japanese earthquake violently disrupted production.

The 2013 model-year will be a big one for the U.S. maker, as it rolls out both the new ATS compact luxury sedan and the more upscale XTS.  Cadillac is also working on plans to expand its line-up even further, officials now openly discussing plans to add a compact crossover – as first reported.

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When asked about which brand was likely to windup to “donate” some market share as the deck is reshuffled in the luxury, segment, Cadillac’s marketing boss Don Butler didn’t hesitate – “Lexus,” he said, suggesting it certainly has a large pool of owners who could be persuaded to try something different.


Hybrids, Supercars and Compact Crossovers: Lexus Looking at Future Product Options

But don’t expect the Japanese luxury maker to keep up with its German rivals.

by on Aug.10, 2012

Expect to see the Lexus "spindle" grille on more products in the future.

Shifting market trends have changed the face of the automotive luxury market – leading some manufacturers to flood showrooms with new models. By comparison to its German rivals, Lexus has taken a relatively cautious approach to product proliferation but that may have to change, suggested the Toyota luxury brands top U.S. executive.

While Mark Templin, general manager of the Toyota luxury brand, insists he is “not a big fan of” the rampant product proliferation “that calls for having 100 different models in your line-up,” he told that Lexus is closely evaluating market trends and may very well need to add new models in the not-too-distant future.

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The biggest challenge, he laughed, is that, “We’re running out of the alphabet,” as makers not only add more models but shift to alphanumeric naming policies.


Lexus Looks for Big Surge in Sales

New products, full production should drive brand's recovery.

by on Jun.13, 2012

The 2013 Lexus ES300h is one of nine new models the maker is launching this year.

Lexus is looking to an unprecedented array of new products, along with a revitalized production system to help it recover from last year’s sharp sales slide.

Long the U.S. luxury sales leader, Lexus suffered a sharp decline in 2011 under an assault by key German rivals compounded by the production cuts that followed Japan’s devastating March earthquake and tsunami.  The Toyota subsidiary wound up in third place for the year, behind both BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

But barring the collapse of the U.S. market, Lexus officials are anticipating a sales increase of as much as 25% for all of 2012, along with a several point increase in market share. However, it doesn’t appear the brand is in the running to regain its segment leadership.

“I don’t believe we’re going to put up the numbers,” said Tim Morrison, vice president of sales for Lexus, in part because “the Germans have much more extensive product lines.”

Indeed, BMW, Mercedes and Audi have been flooding dealers with all manner of new models in recent years and Morrison cautioned that, “I don’t think you’re going to see us match that.”

Nonetheless, Lexus isn’t sitting on the sidelines.  All told, the maker plans to launch nine new or significantly updated products this year alone – a figure that jumps to an even dozen if you include F-Sport performance versions of three other models including the RX crossover.

Morrison and other Lexus executives were in Detroit to show off one of those new offerings, the ES sedan.  For 2013 it gets a new chassis that grows an inch overall, an all-new hybrid powertrain, and a new look strongly influenced by the 2012 Lexus GS, with its distinctive “spindle grille” that will become the new face for the Japanese brand.

The new ES arrives a little too late in the year – sales launching in the U.S. in August – to have a major impact on 2012 volume but it will move Lexus in the right direction, stressed Morrison.  The outgoing sedan could reliably be expected to generate about 3,500 sales a month but the new Lexus ES is projected to boost that to 5,000 – about a quarter of that higher volume coming from the new new ES 300h hybrid.

The maker is also hoping to draw in younger buyers with the 2013 ES, something that has proven to be a serious challenge for the Lexus brand, as a whole, which has had a problem reaching beyond aging Baby Boomers.  If the new ES succeeds it could see an average buyer age of around 50, almost a decade younger than the current model.

The addition of the new ES, along with updates of models including the GS and critical RX, will clearly help Lexus gain momentum.  But the primary factor in its recovery will be the fact that all its plants are now operating at full speed again.

In the wake of last year’s natural disaster, Toyota lost 100s of thousands of units of production among all its brands, some model lines only reaching full capacity again by the end of 2011.  The situation was compounded by flooding in Thailand, last autumn, which caused further production delays.

Add competitive pressures and Lexus saw sales plunge to just 197,234, down from 228,129 in 2010.

Toyota is bullish about the U.S. automotive recovery, predicting the total new vehicle market will rise 1.5 million units to 14.4 million, the luxury market posting an especially strong resurgence.

For the first five months of 2012, Lexus sales are up 20%, year-over-year.  The maker expects that to reach 25%, sales for the full year projected to reach 250,000.

Demand for hybrids has clearly helped Lexus which offers more gas-electric models than any of its competitors.  The spring surge in U.S. fuel prices only fed consumer desire for hybrids.  But with fuel prices slipping in recent weeks, Morrison conceded that demand for the dedicated hybrid model, the CT200h has been slipping.

On the other hand, the hybrid version of the maker’s crossover, the RX450, “doesn’t seem to react to the price of gas.”

As reported this week, Honda plans to curb exports of Japanese-made products to the U.S. market due to the lopsided dollar/yen exchange rate.  (Click Here for that story.)

As for Lexus, Morrison said there are no plans to cut Lexus exports to the States.  On the other hand, there is an ongoing “conversation” about shifting more Lexus production to the U.S. — which accounts for about half the brand’s global volume – “to blunt the effect of currency exchange rates.”

But, so far, there are no firm plans in place to move models like the ES to one of Toyota’s North American assembly plants.

Joe Szczesny contributed to this report.

A New Face for the Lexus RX

A sportier look for a soccer-mom standby.

by on Mar.08, 2012

The new F-Sport version of the Lexus RX450h hybrid made its debut in Geneva this week.

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda has given a mandate to the Japanese maker’s Lexus brand.  While it may have a reputation for bullet-proof reliability he also wants it to deliver more passionate design, as last year’s launch of the 2013 Lexus GS illustrated.

The real test comes with the Geneva Motor Show launch of the luxury brand’s soccer mom mainstay, the RX crossover – which rolled onto the floor at Geneva’s PALExpo Convention Center revealing a decidedly new look, its face clearly lifted from the GS blueprints – notably starting with the sport sedan’s distinctive double spindle grille and LED running lamps.

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To emphasize its passion play, Lexus officials revealed the new RX F-Sport model, which adds a sporty front fascia, smoked head and taillamps and darker wheels.


Images of Updated Lexus RX Leak Out

by on Feb.13, 2012

The brochure suggests there'll be an F-Sport version of the fourth-generation Lexus RX.

Lexus has had a tough time keeping a secret in recent months.  The maker had hoped to give the world its first look at the LF-LC concept at the Detroit Auto Show, last month, only to have images leak out ahead of time. 

And it’s happened again.  This time it’s the all-new 2013 Lexus RX crossover that is getting a premier public debut – which also reveals that the new model, the best-seller in the Lexus line-up – will borrow heavily from the front-end design cues first introduced on the LF-LC prototype.


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The popular crossover, which is also the best-seller in its segment, was expected to get a facelift for 2013, with the updated model showing up in April at the New York International Auto Show, but we deliver this sneak peek thanks to our friends at Autoblog and CarScoop – who tracked down a brochure meant for the Japanese domestic market.


There are clear hints of the Lexus LF-LC concept in the front end of the new Lexus RX crossover.

The new look is decidedly more sporty than the frumpy family machine it replaces, with the distinctive pinched chrome trim that surrounds the new double spindle grille directly borrowed from the LF-LC.

It also appears the 2013 Lexus RX will be offered with the luxury brand’s performance-oriented F-Sport trim kit.  But it’s still a people-mover, at heart, even with the bigger wheels and swept-back headlamps. 

This images reveals that we’ll still have the RX450h hybrid option for 2013.  The brochure also suggests there’ll be a new Lexus RX270, though that version is highly unlikely to make it to the American marketplace.


The 4th-generation Lexus RX is expected to debut at the upcoming NY Auto Show.

Beyond that, there are indications of a new rear-seat entertainment system to keep the family happy en-route.

But while it’s all but certain Lexus will have lots of new technology to talk about when the fourth-generation RX is revealed, we expect company officials to echo the emphasis on “passion” that was the centerpiece of the presentation by Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda when he unveiled the Lexus GS sedan last August. 

We expect to find out plenty more by the time we reach New York, though it would surprise few if Toyota’s luxury arm releases a few details of its own before that official preview – as it did once the LF-LC images began leaking out.