NEW YORK – Toyota Motor Corp. likely will increase the number of small Lexus IS derivatives when the next-generation model goes on sale in first quarter 2006, Denny Clements, group vice president-Lexus, tells Ward’s.

The auto maker unveiled the LF-C (Lexus Future Coupe) concept at the New York International Auto Show, saying the highly-stylized coupe signals future cues to be employed in the next-generation IS. (See related story: Lexus NY Concept Points to Future Near-Luxury Design)

Clements says that although the IS sells well against the BMW 3-Series, it is hard to compete with the vehicle’s 18 different variations. The IS currently has only two iterations – the sedan and a sport wagon.

Lexus LF-C Concept

Toyota’s concept is a coupe with fully retractable hardtop, which also is configured to open partially into targa top. The coupe is wider, longer and lower than both the current IS and 3-Series, with a stance very similar to the Lexus SC 430 convertible coupe.

Although Clements consistently compares the concept with the next IS, a spokesman cautions against looking at the concept as anything more than a hint towards the luxury division’s styling future.

“It’s a departure in a sense that we’ve been clearly conservative with our styling,” he says. “It’s one of the areas in which our customers are looking for us to take a new direction.”

The spokesman says the IS sport compact style is very popular among the younger buying set and the company will not compromise what the current IS represents.

Clements says that IS buyers are the youngest among Toyota’s entire U.S. lineup, including the Scion brand.

jstoll@primediabusiness.com