Lexus weighs the best way to add 7-seat crossover

Lexus plans to offer a seven-seat crossover, either by bringing out a new vehicle or by increasing the size of the venerable RX 350.

“Third-row seating is the No. 1 issue we hear from dealers,” Lexus Division chief Jeff Bracken said at the auto show here. “We feel like we’re missing a 35,000-units-a-year opportunity. We’re working hard to rectify that.”

Lexus’ crossover mainstay is the RX 350, a mid-sized five-seater that in the best of economic times has sold more than 100,000 units a year.

The RX is based on the platform of the Toyota Highlander, which was redesigned this year. But the Lexus variant won’t arrive until late 2015, to make room for the launch of the compact NX 200t and NX 300h five-seat crossovers arriving this winter.

Lexus has a seven-seat SUV — the GX 460 — but it is a body-on-frame SUV with a trucklike ride. There has been speculation that a car-based seven-seat crossover would reduce the need for the GX 460, but a Lexus source said the GX 460 is highly profitable for the automaker, even at low volumes.

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