Could a Lexus Minivan Be Coming Next?
The concept of a luxury minivan isn't new. Whether its current minivans like the Honda Odyssey Touring or past vehicles like the Oldsmobile Silhouette, there's always been a market for posh people-movers. In South Korea, Kia even sells the most opulent versions of the Sedona that you've never seen. But what about a seven-passenger Lexus minivan? The idea is out there, and it's gaining momentum.In its Japanese homeland, executives oftentimes take Lexus LS models or Toyota Century limousines--old-school sedans preferred by the elite and yakuza. But some have said they need more space for mobile offices and meeting rooms. They need a minivan with a Lexus badge on it. Toyota's own Alphard minivan does that quite well, but it lacks the panache of a Lexus, despite its high-quality interior, Lexus-like materials, and over-$45,000 starting price when converted to U.S. dollars. A dealer says that demand for a larger Lexus with sliding doors is picking up steam in Japan and China. Lexus, on the other hand, is reluctant to make it. In Japan, there is no "mommy mobile" stigma associated with minivans. Most minivans are purchased by families and executives. Toyota's three over there are the tank-like, luxury-lined Toyota Alphard, sportier Toyota Vellfire, and smaller, more traditional Toyota Estima, which was sold in the U.S. as the Previa through the mid-1990s. We've had the privilege of driving the Alphard and Estima hybrids at the Toyota Hybrid World Tour last year in addition to checking out the Vellfire in Japan ahead of driving a prototype of the Toyota hydrogen car and found all three to be luxurious, capable vehicles. In Asia, luxury minivans are commonplace. Even Buick has one in China, and Mercedes-Benz sells executive versions of its Viano. But in the U.S., we don't share the same sentiments. Might it be time for a change of heart? Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)
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