According to a report from Automotive News, an interview with Lexus manager Jeff Bracken revealed a monthly target of 2200 NX sales in the United States.
That figure sounds terribly low and terribly high at the same time. Lexus can sell a whack of vehicles in America, sure, but when they were designed to scare your children?
Over the last 15 months, Volvo has sold an average of 1570 XC60s per month in the United States. During that same period, an average of 927 Range Rover Evoques have been sold, but the Evoque is much more costly than the NX will be. Land Rover has also averaged 291 LR2 sales per month and Infiniti has tacked on 192 QX50s (formerly EXs).
BMW’s increasingly popular X1 has averaged nearly 2300 sales per month over the last 15 months, but in March recorded its best-ever month with 4307 units.
And then the big numbers show up at Acura, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz, and again at BMW. BMW USA sells more than 2730 X3s on average. Mercedes-Benz GLK volume rings in around 2720 units per month. Audi sells 3275 Q5s monthly. Acura RDX sales average 3665 per month.
But Lexus isn’t Acura, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, or Audi. Lexus is the builder of America’s best-selling premium brand utility vehicle, the RX. They sell an average of 8343 RXs per month. For the first time since 2007, over 100,000 RXs were sold in calendar year 2013, the fifth such 100K+ year in ten years. Isn’t Lexus capable of selling more than 2200 copies of a less costly crossover in an even hotter vehicle segment?
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Sales of the RDX, Q5, X1, X3, QX50, LR2, Evoque, GLK, and XC60 are up 17% in 2014. The only one of the group not selling at a faster clip now than in the first quarter of 2013 is the XC60, and there was a slight sales recovery for the Volvo during the month of March.
Yet aside from the RX – which is definitely a viable rival for many of those aforementioned crossovers on its own value-priced merit, as much as it is a challenger for the Acura MDX – Lexus SUVs haven’t proven to be unmitigated successes.
GX sales are on the mend – 1136 sales per month since January 2013 – but there nowhere close to returning to the levels achieved a decade ago. 12,136 GXs were sold in 2013; 35,420 in 2004. (Consider that the Mercedes-Benz ML has generated 14,619 sales in the last four months.) Meanwhile, the Lexus LX570, which at $82,630 is clearly priced to be a rare SUV, sells just once for every 2.7 Range Rovers. Lexus sold 9846 LXs in 2004 but didn’t sell that often in 2012 and 2013 combined.
The RX isn’t an anomaly. Lexus has also found great success with the ES and, if not right at this moment then historically, the LS, as well. The new IS is on something of a tear, too. But Lexus has introduced flops in the past, most notably with the HS. The CT is not common, the SC has been euthanized, and the GS is either forgotten or ignored by most customers.
It’s not inconceivable that the NX, both in NX200t and NX300h form, with its offensive front end design, lack of a diesel in a diesel-friendly category, and lack of six-cylinder power, could be a tough sell.
Moreover, with the RX being a low-priced “midsize” crossover, might the NX not be worth the savings? The RX350 starts at $40,795 (before delivery/destination), just above the $38,400 X3, $37,300 Q5, and $37,480 GLK.
Acura, of course, has found a more affordable sweet spot with the RDX’s sub-$35K base price, $7400 below the entry price for the MDX. The RDX outsold all premium brand alternatives in 2013.
Nevertheless, even if it means average monthly RX sales falling below 8000 units, which they likely won’t, Lexus should be more than capable of selling 2200 NXs per month, ugly or not. (And hey, it’s not as ugly as the concept LF-NX was.) Relatively affordable, comfort-oriented two-row crossovers is what Lexus does best. It’s not as though the RX has been a stylistic show-stopper since the first-generation departed more than a decade ago, nor is the RX a dynamic raconteur of the road, yet RX volume is escalating.
So for the sake of game-playing, let’s assume Lexus sold 26,400 NXs in 2013. Where would that have landed the new Lexus crossover entry point on our complete vehicle rankings list?
The NX would have been America’s 128th-best-selling vehicle, just behind the BMW X1 (26,512 sales) and the GMC Yukon (28,302 sales) but ahead of the Ford Flex (25,953) and the Jeep Cherokee (abbreviated sales year with 25,786 sales) and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport (24,951). In its own vehicle category, the NX would have trailed the RDX, Q5, GLK, X3, and X1, but finished ahead of the XC60.
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A Lot Better Than This LF-NX Concept
In Canada, assuming the RX’s ratio of 13.34-to-1 American-to-Canadian sales, the NX’s 1979 annual sales would have placed it in 137th spot, behind the Porsche Cayenne, Dodge Durango, and Subaru Legacy (2050, 2045, and 2022 sales, respectively) but ahead of the Scion FR-S, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, and Land Rover Range Rover Sport (1825, 1813, and 1806 sales, respectively.)
In its own category, the NX’s 1979 sales would have placed it behind the Q5, RDX, GLK, X3, and X1 but ahead of the Evoque and XC60.
But the NX200t and NX300h won’t be Range Rover Evoque rivals, not by any means, not even at the high end of the price range. In theory, the upcoming Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA will join the Lexus NX in taking the fight more directly to the X1.
They’ll attempt to sway buyers who might otherwise consider a Ford Escape in Titanium trim, perhaps the Acura RDX’s ideal customer, maybe a potential client for the new Nissan Murano, and the odd 3-Series GT buyer, too, if a 3-Series GT buyer actually exists.
The bigger number? Had Lexus sold 26,400 NXs in addition to the sales of all their other vehicles in 2013, the brand’s total would have risen to 300,247 units in 2013.
That’s still well below the 309,280 sales managed by BMW and the 312,534 non-Sprinter sales at Mercedes-Benz, but it also ignores the possibility that the NX could have been stealing clientele.