When projected sales numbers are as low as this, Lexus wants to focus on core models instead of flashy performance EVs.
Lexus set tongues wagging when it revealed a 402-horsepower RZ Sport concept at the 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon, but at the international launch of the all-electric Lexus RZ, the brand dashed our hopes of whether such a concept might spawn a production RZ F Sport variant. CarBuzz spoke to Lexus Product Marketing manager Sakiko Aono to see whether an expansion of the current lineup was in the cards, but Aono indicated that this is not part of the brand's current plans. The RZ will continue to be offered in just two trims with the same battery and range.
However, Aono did not provide comment on whether a less-powerful single-motor variant was in the works, after CarBuzz discovered a trademark with the EUIPO and USPTO last year for an RZ 300e model.
But if Lexus doesn't want to wow buyers with performance variants, then how successful does it expect the RZ to be with such a slim lineup?
As it turns out, Lexus isn't planning on the RZ being a volume seller. Lexus confirmed to us that it expects the first year of sales to be rather slow, predicting only 4,900 units to be shifted on American soil and a little more than 30,000 examples expected to find new homes worldwide. By contrast, the automaker managed to sell more than 96,000 examples of the RX SUV in 2022. And that was in the US alone.
After seeing the pricing for the new EV, we're not surprised that Lexus has low expectations. The entry-level RZ 450e Premium AWD starts at $59,650, while the RZ 450e Luxury AWD costs a minimum of $65,150. Worse still, the vehicle does not qualify for tax credits because it is built in Japan rather than North America.
With high prices and not a lot of diversity in the range, it seems that the first Lexus EV to be sold in America will be a hard sell. But we think that Toyota is simply playing coy and will intensify its efforts to expand its appeal soon enough. After all, Lexus has been cautious and held back on launching the RZ with its yoke steering, wanting to develop the tech until it's perfect rather than simply being acceptable.
While its Toyota cousin, the bZ4X, aims for mainstream appeal, the RZ targets a more discerning buyer. That's why it forgoes the X-Mode off-road driving mode system from the bZ4X, as the brand feels it doesn't suit the typical profile of a Lexus buyer.
This pragmatic approach from the luxury automaker could benefit the brand in the long run if it successfully launches EVs that work for its buyers' needs rather than requiring continuous recalls and fixes because it was chasing lofty performance figures.
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