Lexus & The 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show

Lexus @ The 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show

With the Tokyo Motor Show happening in less than a month, it’s no real shock that Lexus’ presence at the Frankfurt Auto Show was more than little subdued.

The extent of their attendence seemed limited to only to a plastic molding of the LS 600h, pictured above, and the debut of the new GS refresh. Hardly newsworthy when compared with the likes of the BMW X6, the Porsche GT2, or the Mercedes F700, and rightfully so. This was not Lexus’ time to shine.

The only other Lexus news that has emerged from the show was in regards to the European release of the IS-F. According to Dutch auto-site AutoTeleraaf, the automaker, feeling overshadowed by the BMW M3 and Mercedes C63 AMG, has bumped the release date to spring 2008, though in all honesty it reeks of sensationalism. To know that the date had been bumped would requiring knowing when the original release was expected, and Lexus doesn’t strike me as a company that could be scorned into action.

As to what we can expect from the Tokyo Motor Show, it’s anyone’s guess, but it’s all but guaranteed to be bigger and better than what we saw this week.

Lexus: Why the F?

Why the F?

A very interesting discussion is ongoing at The Truth About Cars, and what started out as an editorial criticizing the new IS-F’s marketing campaign has blossomed into a much deeper debate: Why does Lexus have a performance division at all?

To be fair, the question does open up considerably, casting the same doubts onto Mercedes/AMG, BMW/M Division and Audi/S. The argument is, what do these luxury brands gain by putting such substantial time and money into speed-demon halo cars? Shouldn’t each automaker focus on what they do best?

Were it strictly an attack on Lexus and their new F-line, the answer would be quick and obvious — to compete with their competitors by using their considerable reputation for reliability and dealership experience to draw in customers that want the speed but not the associated maintenance cost and poor service. Even considered solely on these points, the Lexus stands to make an impact in this rarified segment, all while staying true to their overall brand message: The Pursuit of Perfection.

However, when looking at the bigger argument as to why these performance divisions exist at all, that’s a tougher nut to crack. Beyond the significant tuning involved, the main thrust of the F/M/AMG/S divisions is horsepower, the vehicles released contain monster engines capable of stupidly excessive speed. If this was the main point of contention, it would be understandable, how many drivers need 400+bhp for their daily commute? Yet, this seems widely ignored, instead focusing on the idea of brand dilution, and more pointedly, do these halo cars actually serve their purpose of drawing in the general car-buying public to their respective companies?

To this question I have no concrete answers, and only my opinion: Consider the word luxury: the state of great comfort and extravagant living; an inessential, desirable item that is expensive or difficult to obtain. Now, consider the luxury car, at least in terms of Lexus, BMW, Mercedes and Audi — they may be rarer than Chevys and Hondas, but the roads are crowded with these brands. What better way to elevate their status, short of increasing prices, than to release highly tuned versions? In my mind, this is the real reasoning behind the tuning arms, to restore some of the uniqueness that’s worn off due to higher sales. Whether this leads to people buying the non-tuned versions is hard to say, but it’s a suitable justification nonetheless.

Lexus GX: 1st Generation Body Kits


Jaos GX 470 Body KitBody Kit Manufacturer: Jaos

Direct Link to Body Kit: Jaos

Individual Pieces: Front Bumper, Side Step, Rear Bumper, Front Grille

Toyota Aero SU

Toyota Aero SU GX 470 Body KitBody Kit Manufacturer: Toyota

Direct Link to Body Kit: Toyota Aero SU

Individual Pieces: Front Bumper, Side Step, Rear Bumper, Front Grille, Replacement Rear View Mirrors,Rear Roof Spoiler, Clear Tail Lights

Toyota Active SU


Toyota Active SU GX 470 Body KitBody Kit Manufacturer: Toyota

Direct Link to Body Kit: Toyota Active SU

Individual Pieces: Front Bumper, Side Step, Rear Bumper, Rear Under Spoiler, Front Grille, Replacement Rear View Mirrors

The Lexus Body Kit Series: GX 470

Lexus Body Kit Series: GX 470

At first, the latest part in my Lexus Body Kit Series seemed to be taking the same road as my last feature, the ES 350, which yielded no kits at all. However, it turns out that there are a couple body kits for the GX 470.

Two of the kits come from Toyota, built for the Japanese-GX 470 equivalent, the Land Cruiser Prado, yet despite the manufacturer, both are rather underwhelming, and the remaining kit by Jaos is equally so.

Beyond the limited body kit availability, something about the GX seems to defy modification. To be honest, it’s one of my favorites in the current Lexus lineup, and I like it just the way it is. Still, I would definitely fit the factory spoiler, given the choice:

Lexus GX 470 Factory Spoiler

The Lexus Global Strategy

Lexus Showroom

Lexus, which has focused primarily on the American market since its inception in 1989, has been attempting to grow into the global brand, yet the results have been mixed. The Detroit News has a very interesting article on this topic:

In some of the most promising, fast-growing markets such as Russia and China, Lexus is off to a roaring start.

But it has been slow to gain traction in key regions, including its home market, Japan, where the brand sputtered after a grand introduction two years ago. Lexus missed its sales targets in Japan in 2005 and 2006, and demand is only now picking up after the rollout of a redesigned flagship LS sedan.

The biggest challenge, however, is Western Europe, the world’s No. 1 luxury car market and home of the oldest premium marques. Last year, Lexus sold fewer than 37,000 vehicles in Europe — a market comparable in size with the United States, where Lexus sold 322,000 cars and crossovers.

Even more telling is the article’s accompanying graphic:

Lexus Global Sales Map

In the US, where Lexus is the best-selling luxury automotive brand, it’s easy to mention BMW, Mercedes and Lexus in the same breath, but this can’t be said of the rest of the world. It all comes down to conflicting viewpoints:

Americans prize comfort, reliability and attentive service — the hallmarks of the Lexus brand. The Japanese revere heritage. Europeans want innovation above all…

Quite clearly, any success in Japan is going to take time, building history is not something that happens over night, obviously. However, Lexus’ struggle in Europe is equal parts bafflingly/expected, for if these consumers look for innovation above all else, how is Lexus not more successful? Many points can be argued, but if Lexus is one thing, it’s innovative. Perhaps, rather than innovation, Europeans value the driving experience, which is the one area Lexus trails behind brands like BMW.

Therein lies the real issue, whereas an automaker like Mercedes has been able to straddle the line between comfort and performance (how successfully, of course is an entirely separate issue), Lexus’ main focus has always been comfort. Steps are being taken, considering the introduction of the IS-F, the upcoming LF-A, and the hint of a possible GS-F, but these cars have yet to be honestly compared to their peers. If anything, this performance line may be Lexus’ best hope in establishing a strong presence in Europe, but nothing is guaranteed.

As I mentioned previously, the Detroit News article is exceptionally detailed, and I feel as though I’ve only scratched its surface. Highly recommended reading for any Lexus enthusiast.