Late last year, Toyota Motor North America CEO Jim Lentz suggested the automaker, after taking stock of its inventory, might cut some struggling product from its store shelves. It now seems on the verge of adding a new one.
Bound for a Detroit debut, the company’s Lexus LC Convertible Concept is not a way-out pipe dream unveiled by an automaker hoping to generate buzz with an inch-deep piece of vaporware. Instead, it is simply the division’s high-zoot LC coupe, sans roof. And all of the wording surrounding the car screams that production is nearly inevitable — so long as the public responds favorably.
Toyota says the drop-top Lexus suggests the “future direction” of its flagship car, providing a detailed list of specifications to underscore what the concept has to offer (length grows by four-tenths of an inch, and that’s about it). An accompanying video superimposes phrases like “Too powerful to ignore” over seductive angles of the vehicle’s body and innards. Yes, the vestigial rear seat remains.
The company’s intentions aren’t subtle. Toyota even goes as far as calling it an “aspirational halo vehicle,” all but shouting that it wants buyers interested in a high-end drop-top that doesn’t hail from Germany.
Available in LC 500 and LC 500h hybrid form, the LC line starts at $93,225 (after delivery) for a coupe boasting 471 horsepower from its 5.0-liter V8, with power routed to the rear wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission. Springing for the hybrid drops horsepower and raises the price. Entry price for the hybrid’s 354 hp and odd multi-stage tranny is $97,735, and it’s easy to see a convertible LC retailing for over $100k to start.
While Lentz’s November comments hinted at a product cull, his words can be interpreted as Toyota seeking to put extra effort behind certain models. “We are taking a hard look at all of the segments that we compete in to make sure we are competing in profitable segments and that products we sell have strategic value,” Lentz said.
As a high-tech, high-priced flagship, the LC has strategic value. It’s the company’s only grand tourer and, in this form, it would be the company’s only convertible.
Lexus needs a new reason for buyers to check out, and maybe slide into, its slinky two-door. Despite going on sale in early 2017, last year’s sales fell 20 percent below that of its first, truncated year on the market. Lexus moved 1,979 LCs in 2018 compared to 2017’s 2,487, and December’s sales show a 48 percent year-over-year decline. Is the LC in trouble? That depends on the brand’s expectations for the model, but falling sales and the appearance of this “concept” points to dissatisfaction among company brass.
If the automaker doesn’t built this convertible, one wonders what that means for the model’s future.