It appears that Lexus is finally going to address the obvious gap in its product line-up – business-class MPVs. According a Facebook post by Lexus Taiwan, Lexus is going to present a ‘new type’ of vehicle at the upcoming 2019 Shanghai Auto Show.
Accompanying the sole teaser photo is a tagline that says ‘The Luxury of Space.’ Elsewhere, it has also been reported that Lexus has registered the LM name, which we would guess to mean Luxury Minivan/MPV, analogous to the LS nameplate’s Luxury Sedan.
The fact that Lexus had carefully chosen the word ‘new type of vehicle’ and the choice of using the word ‘space’ in its tagline suggests that we will finally see a Lexus-badged alternative to the Toyota Alphard/Vellfire.
Asia’s affinity with business class MPVs, which in the West is known simply as minivans, is something that European car makers find it very difficult to understand.
The reality is that Asian consumers see these luxury MPVs as a legitimate alternative to an S-Class or a 7 Series. Wealthy Asian buyers don’t care about handling or how their vans handle autobahn speeds. Instead, they appreciate the additional space that these cars offer and the ease of access/exit, thanks to the sliding door’s large aperture and the seat’s high hip point, allowing occupants to simply step in/out of the vehicle.
This is a segment where the Toyota Alphard/Vellfire twins reign supreme. Even in Japanese cars averse Korea and China, American alternatives to the Toyota Alphard/Vellfire are preferred by socialites and businessmen. K-pop stars often travel in modified and stretched Chevrolet Express vans, which the Koreans use it very differently from their American counterparts. Meanwhile in China, businessmen often travel in a Buick GL8, which is designed solely for China.
The Alphard/Vellfire twins are known are their luxurious airplane business class-style seats and rear seat entertainment but the cabin materials are still very much Toyota-class. It’s something that Asian buyers have willingly look away but this upcoming Lexus version however, should be equipped with materials befitting of a premium car, perhaps featuring the Lexus LS’ handcrafted Kiriko glass and hand-folded pleated door trim?