Drive Jack Bauer’s Lexus GS 430 (sorta)

Having only seen bits and pieces of the TV show 24, I didn’t know Jack Bauer drove a Lexus GS 430, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting this RC version of his car:

Jack Bauer's Lexus GS 430 RC Car

After posting about the die-cast GS 430 last month, I’ve toyed with buying some 1:18 replicas, but better sense has prevailed. But for how long?

[Source: Otherland Toys]

The Rise of the Lavish Lexus Dealerships

Lexus of Santa Monica

The Wall Street Journal has an article up about the increasingly lavish Lexus dealerships that are popping up all over the United States. It’s an in-depth and enjoyable article, detailing not only the amenities but explaining the logistics behind such large investments:

The Lexus of Palm Beach dealership moved from a much smaller, older facility a few miles away to a building that cost $35 million to construct, about four times what dealers typically spent on upscale showrooms 10 to 15 years ago…In November, the first full month of operation, the store sold 335 new vehicles, making it the fifth-largest Lexus dealer in the U.S. A year ago, it sold 199 and ranked 25th.

For the past few years, Lexus has offered deals under which it will allocate more cars to dealers that upgrade their facilities. For the $35 million investment in its new showroom, AutoNation’s Palm Beach can order 2,000 cars on top of its normal allocation over the next 18 months or so. That leaves room for a lot of growth. Last year, the store sold 2,710 new cars.

Well, it takes money to make money.

A great article, to be sure.

(The photo above is Lexus of Santa Monica, California.)

[Source: Wall Street Journal]

Lexus Customer Service Examples

Lexus Logo

Nancy Fein, Lexus’ Vice-President of Customer Services, recently gave a talk at the Source Media Customer Engagement Symposium, where she discussed how Lexus reacts when things go wrong. Bill Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company and business author, was at the event and recapped the presentation:

…what happens when big dreams get mugged by reality? That’s what Nancy Fein addressed in her talk. As soon as the first Lexus 400 sedans hit the market, she said, the company learned that there were three minor technical problems with the car.

So more than 300 Lexus officials organized into small groups and traveled to all parts of the country. They visited the affected customers at home, brought them a gift, apologized for the glitches in person, and, of course, brought along a technician who fixed the problems. On the spot. In their driveways.

A familiar story, but I was very interested to read about a more current event:

Last year, another small problem developed with a Lexus model—this time, the new ES 350 sedan. Something about the transmission skipping second gear and slipping from first to third. (Don’t ask for more details, I’m not a car guy.) The problem affected about 700 cars before the Lexus factories fixed it. This time, rather than visit customers at their homes, Lexus did ask them to visit their dealer. But instead of just fixing the problem, Lexus gave all the affected customers a brand new car. No questions asked.

Being as how a faulty transmission is a fairly significant repair, having dealers swap the cars with new ones has to be the most effective response that I can think of. With no time lost by the owner, there’s no bad feelings, no backlash. Even better, Lexus can repair the affected vehicles and then resell them at a slight discount.

Very smart.

[Source: Havard Business Online]

Lexus Takes Potential IS-F Customers to the Track

2008 Lexus IS-F

Rather than the mass-media marketing campaign expected with the release of a new vehicle, the Lexus IS-F will be promoted in a different fashion — letting potential customers test drive the car on race tracks across the United States:

Lexus will try and lure in buyers at the track, said Brian Bolain, Lexus’ national manager of interactive marketing and automotive events.

“The typical Lexus buyer is not going to be persuaded into an IS-F,” Bolain said. “It’s for someone who wants power and control. We are going to focus heavily on driving opportunities.”

Bolain said that Lexus’ performance credentials have fallen short of its European rivals and that many luxury car buyers see Lexus cars as quality vehicles but don’t rate it as a high-performance enthusiast car.

“We have a lot of ground to make up,” Bolain said.

This is a smart move, every IS-F review written so far has heaped accolades onto its track performance, and letting performance enthusiasts experience that themselves is bound to create some real interest.

These test driving events will happen at five race tracks, including the oft-mentioned Laguna Seca Raceway, with some additional street driving events thrown in for good measure.

[Via: EGMCarTech]

Lexus LS 460 Lane Keep Assist Video Demonstration

The Lane Keep Assist feature, which effectively locks you into a highway lane, may only available on the European & Asian Lexus LS, but it’s incredibly effective, at least in the context of this video:

I’m of two minds with this feature. You can never discount added safety, but the movement towards automated driving makes me nervous. At least it doesn’t work if you remove your hands from the steering wheel.