Looking at Lexus Design

Lexus L-Finesse

There’s an interesting column by Eddie Alterman at Car & Driver—I recommend reading the whole thing, but here’s some choice quotes:

…try to figure out what an IS F could possibly be doing next to an HS250h hybrid. Or why the LFA, a bona fide super-premium super-GT, looks like somebody’s old Supra that crashed into a JC Whitney parts warehouse…You’ll certainly leave wondering what it is that Lexus believes in.

The real answer to the question of Lexus’s product convictions is that it has none. It’s a fine mimic, but there’s no dynamic cohesion among its cars. However blasphemous this may sound to the car enthusiast, those great performance Lexuses represent the problem. They are elaborate ways of confusing the brand’s message and scattering its resources. What’s really killing Lexus is waywardness.

A business, especially a luxury-car business, should stand for something more than just best practices and profit taking. A great car company needs its own animating idea, expressed through the entire product line—a spirit that holds the enterprise together.

What I find most interesting about Alterman’s column is that he almost gets it—it’s right in front of him, but he takes a wrong turn and ends up at the wrong conclusion.

The answer is here in this audio interview with Lexus Head for Global Design, Simon Humphries:

Mr Humphries’ comments are strictly broad strokes, but there’s a lot that can be taken away—particularly when he says “Lexus is about changing, or redefining, the luxury experience”.

This sentiment is the very essence of the brand, the “animating idea” that Alterman is looking for. It’s the common thread that ties every Lexus model together. Alterman mistakes it for a “fine mimic”—Lexus is not copying, they’re improving.

It’s the pursuit of perfection.

It explains the very first LS 400 as much as it does the IS F or LFA, and it’s the reason behind every vehicle in the lineup. Most importantly, it’s been the brand’s slogan since its introduction in 1989—I’m surprised Alterman didn’t know about it.

[Source: Car & Driver & Lexus Magazine]