Lexus CT200h May Not Get Successor, Hybrid Crossover Could Take Its Place
No decision has been made, but it doesn’t look good for the hybrid hatchbackby Kirby, on
The Lexus CT 200h is by no means a flop of a car. It routinely sells 10,000 units a year, which is a healthy number for a car of different circumstances. Unfortunately, for the CT 200h, it belongs in the premium compact market that’s worth around 750,000 cars in Europe alone. So in that respect, the CT 200h has failed to live up to the expectations of Lexus, so much so that that Lexus Europe chief Alain Uyttenhoven admitted that there’s talk of ending the CT 200h’s production when its lifespan concludes in 2018. No immediate successor has been identified, but according to Autocar, there is some sentiment that a production version of the LF-SA Concept that was shown at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show could eventually take the spot that will presumably be vacated by the CT 200h.
For Lexus, the rationale behind this big move is simple, at least if it does end up happening. The CT 200h isn’t selling as well as Lexus hoped relative to the segment it’s in. The company could develop a successor that’s better in every way, or it could just leave the segment entirely and concentrate on a more lucrative crossover/SUV market whose growth hasn’t shown signs of slowing down anytime soon.
The numbers even back it up because of the 652,000 units that Lexus sold all over the world in 2015, the Lexus NX and RX accounted for close to half of that number with both models selling roughly 150,000 units apiece. Lexus even expects the NX and RX to add to those sales numbers in 2016 to about 170,000 and 200,000 units, respectively.
Having a hybrid crossover to slot below the NX isn’t a guarantee of booming sales, but with customers tripping over themselves to buy crossovers and SUVs, the ceiling for a new model would be significantly higher compared to a successor to the CT 200h, even if the premium compact market is healthy in its own right.
And don’t be fooled by the robust sales numbers because Lexus isn’t doing as well as it likes in Europe, where it sold only 64,000 units across the board in 2015. That’s less than 10 percent of the company’s total sales volume. Uyttenhoven even said that the rough going across the pond is largely tied to the company having only one model – the CT 200h – in the sub-€40,000 ($45,000) bracket, which he adds accounts for “50 percent of the European luxury car market.”
So the question boils down to what the Lexus CT 200h can offer compared to a new hybrid crossover. From the looks of things, Lexus appears to be leaning towards the new crossover, a move that makes sense if it really wants to take a bigger piece of the crossover/SUV pie.
Continue after the jump to read the full story.
Why it matters
I think this is the case of what priorities Lexus has with its future lineup. The Lexus CT 200h still belongs in a healthy market. Maybe if the company just put more focus on a successor, that model would fare much better than the incumbent. But doing so would also mean having to navigate through a market that’s teeming with options with the company only having one model to offer as competition.
It’s a harder sell for everyone involved as opposed to a new hybrid crossover, which in theory, would join the NX and the RX to complete a three-car crossover/SUV lineup that could compete in what is arguably a bigger market than the one the CT 200h is in. More importantly, this lineup could help Lexus break through the 100,000 sales mark in Europe, something it’s still well short off considering that it’s target for this year is to sell 70,000 units. Could a replacement to the CT 200h help in boosting that total? It could, but again, the ceiling wouldn’t be as high as having a new hybrid crossover that could command six-figure global sales numbers like the NX and the RX.
Lexus has goals, especially in Europe where it’s yet to be treated as a “real player” in the words of Uyttenhoven. The CT 200h had its run and it was successful to a certain extent. But it wasn’t successful to the point that it helped push Lexus to the next level where presumably the likes of Mercedes, BMW, and Audi reside. A new hybrid crossover could do that as it rounds off the company’s existing lineup in that market and while also adding another complement to the big saloon sedans that the company is primarily known for.
It’s a big decision to make, one I think Lexus will seriously mull over before coming to a decision. Whatever that is, we can all be sure that it’s going to be what’s “best for business.”
Read our full review on the 2015 Lexus CT 200h here.