What do you get when you slap a turbocharger and some high touch interior parts on a Toyota Rav4? A Lexus NX 200t, if the rumors are true.
According to Automotive News, Lexus has trademarked the model names NX 200t and NX 300h, both of which would seem to be designations for a Rav4-sized Lexus small SUV.
LeftLaneNews.com has published spy photos of just such a vehicle, showing a vehicle that looks suspiciously similar to a Rav4 in terms of size, yet definitely seems to have some Lexus design language.
The really exciting part? This Lexus will feature a turbocharged 4-cylinder, one that will eventually make it’s way to the rest of Toyota’s line-up. That’s big news for an automaker that doesn’t have a turbocharged vehicle in the line-up.
Why Is Toyota So Late To The Turbocharging Party?
Considering the rampant success of Ford’s EcoBoost engine family (stalling problems notwithstanding) and VW’s TSI engine family – and considering Toyota’s global reputation as an innovator – it’s a bit shocking to see Toyota being so far behind the rest of the auto industry in turbocharged, small displacement engines with direct injection.
According to AutoWeek, Toyota has conceded that they “misread” the market for turbochargers and direct injection, putting their eggs in the hybrid and electric vehicle baskets (two markets that really aren’t growing) and missing the boat.
However, I think saying that Toyota “misread” the marketplace is being far too generous. Instead, I’d argue that Toyota’s obsession with global growth and cost-cutting during the financial crisis resulted in an unforced error.
How A Financial Crisis Effects Automakers
With a couple of notable exceptions, most automakers had the cash on hand to survive the financial crisis of 2008, as well as the following 3 years of incredibly slow sales.
However, “cash on hand” isn’t necessarily a rainy-day fund that automakers have set aside just in case of a crisis. Instead, this is money that automakers use to fund research and development. If Toyota had set aside a few billion dollars to weather the financial crisis, that money had to come from somewhere.
What’s more, if an automaker like Toyota used the financial crisis as an excuse to beging drastic cuts to their operations – which in turn helped lead to a PR fiasco having to do with improperly placed floor mats, sticky accelerators, etc. – it’s easy to see how Toyota might have decided against investing in turbochargers and direct injection back in 2008 and 2009. Who has money to spend on direct injection or turbos when you’re replacing sticky throttles and floormats?
While hindsight is always 20/20, it says here that Toyota’s failure to bring a turbocharged small displacement engine with direct injection wasn’t just a “misread,” it was a direct result of Toyota’s zeal to be the world’s largest, most profitable automaker. Instead of finding new ways to squeeze pennies from every facet of their operation, Toyota should have been investing in the future.
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