For hard-core followers of the automotive industry, it is common knowledge that Honda and Toyota are probably the most secretive companies when it comes to revealing hints and clues of its future model plans. In the case of the latter carmaker, its North American operations are notoriously tight-lipped in this regard. Fortunately for those of us obsessed with predicting the automotive future, other international Toyota and Lexus outposts can be a bit more forthcoming with such information. <A HREF="http://my.is/forums/f41/once-again-european-lexus-executive-hints-sub-lexus-372308/">A story on CT200hForum's sister site my.IS from 2008</A> links to a number of such instances from Europe, and, in Australia, the country's then-Lexus divisional manager John Roca was among the first to <A HREF="http://my.is/forums/f41/lexus-australia-divisional-manager-mentions-possible-coupe-336221/">tacitly confirm the then-upcoming Lexus IS C back in 2007</A>. Now, on the occasion of the Lexus CT 200h launch Down Under, Mr. Roca's successor, Tony Cramb (shown above) revealed to <A HREF="http://theage.drive.com.au/motor-news/lexus-at-home-with-range-of-choice-20110401-1co2d.html">theage.com.au's Drive's Toby Hagon</A> a combination of wish list and hints on future probabilities for the Lexus line. Here's the article's Lexus CT-related passage:
While other online media such as <A HREF="http://lexusenthusiast.com/2011/04/29/lexus-future-plans-to-include-ct-300h-smaller-suv/">The Lexus Enthusiast</A> and <A HREF="http://www.autoblog.com/2011/05/02/lexus-planning-to-bring-three-new-models-hotter-ct200h-to-marke/">Autoblog</A> picked up on the Drive story and wrote their own commentary articles, they missed another more informative story by <A HREF="http://www.goauto.com.au/mellor/mellor.nsf/story2/C686DD465BD5D069CA2578620016D2DA">GoAuto.com.au's Ron Hammerton</A>, who also cites Mr. Cramb extensively. Here are the article's most significant Lexus CT 300h-related sections:Lexus is already talking of a higher-performance version of its hybrid-only CT200h, which went on sale this week.
Likely to be called the CT300h, the petrol-electric hatch would probably get a bigger petrol engine and electric motor for more spirited performance.
There's no word yet on an even more powerful CT F version - to line up alongside the V8-powered IS F - but longer-term it would make an interesting competitor to the BMW 135i and Audi S3.
Cramb also says the trend of allowing choices of colours and finishes inside - the CT200h is available in various metallic and wood finishes as well as different colours of leather and fabric, including bright red - will likely expand.
Talk of a more powerful Lexus CT 300h is hardly surprising news to this author, who helped break the <A HREF="http://my.is/forums/f41/lexus-c-premium-upmarket-small-car-gets-name-ct-200h-394367/">news of CT 300h and CT 400h trademark registrations back in July 2009</A>. What is notable, however, is tacit confirmation that the CT 300h will seemingly feature a "big-bore 2.5-litre" 4-cylinder engine. In other words, it will be among the first vehicles to use a new 2AR-FXE hybrid powertrain built around the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder 2AR-FE engine that debuted in the 2009 Toyota RAV4 and then made its way to the current non-hybrid Toyota Camry and Scion tC coupe (the latter sold as the Toyota Zelas in select markets).A big-bore 2.5-litre CT300h is also likely, to give a performance alternative to the frugal 1.8-litre petrol-electric CT200h that has only just entered global markets, including Australia, where pricing starts at a hot AU$39,990.
For now, Lexus Australia is depending on the new CT200h to help it achieve its volume aspirations this year.
Although Lexus officially says the CT is charged with becoming one of the brand’s top-three sellers in this market, Mr Cramb said the CT might end up being Lexus’ number one, as long as it can get its hands on sufficient stock.
A queue of 300 buyers has already exhausted the initial delivery to Australian dealers, and some of them are facing a wait of up to three months for delivery.
The Japanese earthquake that stalled car production across that country on March 11 is also likely to put a two-week hole in production, although Toyota hybrid production resumed (on the last week of March 2011)
A bigger problem for Lexus Australia might be demand from Europe and North America, where, according to Mr Cramb, CT200h customer enquiry has exceeded supply, raising the spectre of rationing to other markets.
“The car has gone ballistic – I may not be able to get supply,” he said.
Mr Cramb said he was happy with the decision to exclude conventional petrol powertrains from the CT line-up, saying the company could achieve its volume targets with the hybrid-only range.
“The whole purpose of this car is to signal the future and I am very happy to have just hybrid,” he said, adding that the CT might account for up to 25 per cent of Lexus sales.
Of broader significance is the Australian articles' contention that the long-rumored expansion of Lexus' FWD-centric crossover SUV line is seemingly on the front burner again. While only the Drive article states that "a seven-seat SUV to compete with the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GL and Audi Q7 is also a priority, with the Lexus RX available now with only five seats", both articles mention the prime importance of a smaller-than-RX model to battle against the upcoming BMW X1 and Audi Q3. This Toyota RAV4-derived sub-RX Lexus has been rumored for years, and, with the RAV4 due for an all-new generation within the next year or so, the time may be right for a Lexus sibling. Lexus Australia is particularly keen on this model, and the GoAuto article adds that this small SUV was shelved in favor of the CT 200h during the global financial crisis, may wind up being a hybrid-only line à la CT and HS, and includes this cautious timing prediction:
Yet, Australia isn't the only market clamoring for an expanded Lexus crossover SUV line, for the brand's U.S. Southern Area Dealer Advisory Council, in <A HREF="http://jalopnik.com/5797130/how-lexus-is-losing-the-luxury-war">an 8-page document leaked by Jalopnik</A> urges the addition of "an entry level SUV to compete against the Audi Q5" and "a three-row car based SUV styled differently than the RX".If a Lexus compact luxury SUV is to emerge this year, it is likely to be shown in concept form at one of the big motor shows in the second half of 2011 – possibly Frankfurt in September or Tokyo in December.
As Lexus habitually shows concepts about 12 months ahead of production – the RX SUV launched in 2008 was shown as the LF-Xh in October 2007 – then the global launch might be expected in the second half of 2012 as a 2013 model.