The 2004 Lexus RX 330 is an integral part of the three-model luxury utility vehicle strategy that has made Lexus the leader of this category. The all-new GX 470 introduced for model year 2003 is a full-capability V8-powered SUV positioned between the RX 330 and the premium-luxury LX 470. The two new-model introductions and a revised LX 470 give Lexus the youngest line of luxury utility vehicles in the industry.
"The concept of 'luxury utility vehicles' aims to clearly describe to consumers what Lexus produces, promises and delivers," said Lexus Group Vice President and General Manager Denny Clements. "Lexus luxury utility vehicles not only symbolize power and prestige, but their upscale, aspirational image and generous luxury appointments set them apart from other automotive makes."
Lexus was the first full-line luxury brand to offer a luxury utility vehicle, with the launch of the LX 450 in March 1996. Within two months on the market, it had surpassed the Range Rover in total unit sales. With the addition of the RX 300 in 1998, Lexus became the leader in luxury SUV sales, and since then, has been able to capture 26 percent or more of total luxury SUV sales.
Over the years, the luxury SUV market has changed dramatically. Several luxury brands have adopted a two-SUV strategy or expanded the variations available on one model. The segment continues to expand, adding both traditional-type models and crossover vehicles based on passenger car platforms. The luxury SUV segment has grown from just under 90,000 units in 1997 to just over 322,000 in 2001, and is expected to reach 580,000 in 2005.
"Lexus broke new ground when it launched its first Luxury SUV more than six years ago," said Clements. "At the time, there were doubters - including the competition - who questioned whether a luxury brand could successfully expand into sport utility vehicles. Today, the competition is following our lead."
With significant growth of new product entries, the luxury SUV category segmentation has grown to mirror that of luxury sedans, with entry, mid-size and premium luxury models. Brand loyalty in the luxury category is highest among SUVs, strengthening the business case to offer three different models. Each of the Lexus luxury utility vehicles appeals to distinct customer needs and desires. Moreover, each of the three models fulfills a distinct role in the brand's line, with little or no overlap in pricing.
RX 330: New Generation of Entry-Luxury Crossover Pioneer
The 2004 Lexus RX 330 succeeds the RX 300, which had remained the best-selling model in its competitive set right through its final season.
Launching an SUV first in the premium luxury class helped to create brand aspiration and spur demand for a lower-priced model. However, Lexus recognized that a high-volume model would attract many customers who would be moving out of passenger cars, and so it would need to provide passenger car-like ride and feel. With the launch of the five-seat RX 300 in 1998, Lexus created the template for today's entry luxury SUVs.
Based on a passenger car/SUV "crossover" platform, the RX 300 was the first luxury brand vehicle to truly combine SUV versatility with the performance and comfort of a luxury sedan. The RX 300 quickly became the best-selling luxury SUV in the market and helped grow the Lexus brand significantly.
The 2004 RX 330 builds on the successful formula of the RX 300, giving loyal customers more of what they loved about the original while providing additional technology and luxury content that have helped to make Lexus the No. 1 selling luxury brand in the U.S. market. Direct competitors include the Acura MDX, BMW X5 3.0i, Mercedes-Benz ML320 and Volvo XC90.
GX 470: Mid-Size, Full Capability
The 2003 GX 470 fills a gap in price and capability between the car-based, entry-luxury RX 330 model and the premium luxury LX 470. With body-on-frame construction, V8 power and seating for up to eight passengers, the GX 470 is conceptually similar to the LX 470. It offers more room and greater towing capacity than the RX 330, and its innovative four-wheel drive and advanced dynamic control systems help give it the capability to navigate rugged off-highway terrain. Lexus expects to sell more than 20,000 of the new model in 2003.
The GX 470 is slightly smaller than the LX 470. Its standard equipment and options give customers a taste of the luxury that's available in the LX 470. The off-road system unites several advanced technologies to give the GX 470 the kind of off-road capability that customers in this segment have come to expect.
The GX 470 will attract new customers to Lexus. It also will provide a new choice for previous RX 300 owners who are looking for greater vehicle capability but want to remain within the brand. Competitors include the Mercedes-Benz ML500, BMW X5 4.4i, Land Rover Discovery, as well as the larger Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.
LX 470: Full-Size, Premium Luxury
The eight-seat LX 470 is a premium, full-size, full-capability model that will remain a relatively low-volume flagship in the Lexus luxury utility vehicle strategy. Its body-on-frame construction, high-torque V8 engine, sophisticated chassis and four-wheel drive provide uncompromised off-road capability for customers who need it, without sacrificing the smooth ride quality that Lexus customers expect.
As a flagship model, the LX 470 is a technology leader. Adjustable Height Control suspension debuted on this model, for example. For 2003, the LX 470 introduced a new optional Night View System that uses near-infrared technology to help enhance nighttime driving visibility.
The LX 470 has also been something of a model for others to follow, with more competitors introducing full-size luxury SUVs in the past few years. Its key competitors include the BMW X5 4.6i, Land Rover Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz ML55 AMG and G-Class.