2015 RC F (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)
Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus brand Tuesday unveiled a new performance coupe as the company’s luxury seeks to keep rebuilding sales.
The 2015 RC F, with a 5-liter V-8 engine capable of generating 450 horsepower, was shown at the North American International Auto Show. The model, which is scheduled to go on sale in the fall, is part of Toyota’s move to improve the design of its vehicles.
“Nobody gives us credit for the emotional excitement of our brand,” Mark Templin, a Toyota managing officer and executive vice president of Lexus International, told reporters following a news conference at the show. The RC F “gives us emotional appeal,” he said.
Lexus U.S. deliveries gained 12 percent last year to 273,847, faster than Toyota’s total 7.4 percent increase for the year. Lexus trailed the Mercedes-Benz and BMW brands in U.S. luxury vehicle sales in 2013. Lexus fell from the top spot in 2011 after a tsunami and other natural disasters disrupted vehicle production.
“Lexus was the king of the luxury segment for quite a reign,” said Jeff Schuster, an analyst with LMC Automotive. The brand is trying to add “some sexiness and style,” he said.
Lexus opted to equip the RC F with the V-8 because “a lot of racing enthusiasts see the V-8 as the engine of choice,” Templin said. The company expects the RC F to appeal to both existing Lexus owners while snaring customers from other luxury brands, he said.
The RC F comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission. “Everybody talks about a manual transmission but nobody wants to buy it,” Templin said. “It probably doesn’t make sense for us.”
For Lexus and the RC F, “you don’t have to necessarily sell a whole lot of them,” said Dave Sullivan, an analyst with AutoPacific. “They need a buzz generator, just to get people to visit their website.” Lexus estimates it will sell about 200 RC Fs in the U.S. a month.