What’s Next for Lexus Design

Lexus Design Chief Simon Humphries

There’s a big interview with Lexus’ head of global design, Simon Humphries, at Lexus Magazine that brings some major insight into the direction of the brand — I definitely recommend reading the full thing, but I want to focus on three quotes:

LEXUS: First of all, now that we know that the 2011 IS will have body changes, are there any big design updates coming for other 2011 models?

HUMPHRIES: At this point I can say only that there will also be a change in the front-end design of the GS, most likely arriving in 2012. Both the IS and future GS updates are dramatic changes—they’re much more distinctive, much more unique. In our minds, these aren’t complete black to white sort of changes, but they are an evolution.

This is about as close to a confirmation on the next-gen GS coming next year that we’ve had, though it’s curious that emphasis was placed specifically on the front-end redesign — must be quite dramatic.

The fact that the IS is also mentioned is confusing — the 2011 IS is an improvement, but not what I would classify as a dramatic change. Perhaps he’s referring to the next-generation IS as well.

Okay, how about the larger picture. We’ve heard more and more that Lexus vehicles will be changing, but what are the specifics there, at least from your perspective?

I think our biggest change we’ve been working on comes down to one issue, and that’s that Lexus is now heavily focused on being a driver’s vehicle. In other words, in the luxury market, I think that all manufacturers have got to decide whether they’re going to produce formal ride-in-the-back-type prestige cars or vehicles that are meant to be thrilling to drive.

Lexus is definitely now heavily emphasizing, and will continue to do so, a driving-oriented ideology—cars that are completely driver focused. The LFA is, of course, a symbol of that change in many ways.

This significant shift in focus has been building for some time, and serves to bring Lexus cars more in line with performance/luxury balance exhibited by the German car brands. The LFA is meant to build performance credibility, and with the introduction of the LS 460 Sport, even the flagship sedan is getting into the game.

This also paves the way for Lexus to branch the models in two directions: performance luxury and hybrid (quiet) luxury, which in theory satisfies two very different customer bases. It’s a unique strategy, and one that presents a clear competitive advantage over simply offering hybrid engine options.

(To complete the picture, the ES would to be offered as hybrid, but that seems like a foregone conclusion anyway.)

How does this translate to your world, vehicle design? We’ve noticed that the shapes and angles of Lexus vehicles are getting somewhat sharper and edgier.

Yes, that’s been a very conscious decision. With the focus on a fun driving experience, we’ll eventually be taking the entire line in a much bolder design direction, which isn’t just about the car as a whole. Like I said, you’ll soon see that in the identity of the front-ends, like the IS and GS for 2011.

But if you want to see what I’m talking about right now, take a look at the face of the CT 200h; the grille design is bold, very distinctive. That is something we intend to take through the whole line, so you can look forward to that, perhaps, in each model’s next generation.

Both the RX and CT have sharper, more refined front-ends when compared to the rest of the lineup, and it’s relatively easy to see how that same sharpness could be applied to any other Lexus model. Thought of in another way, the RX, CT and LFA all share this certain look that I can only describe as astronautical, which is as bold and distinctive a design direction as it gets.

The rest of the interview is just as insightful, and well worth reading — certainly has my imagination fired up.

[Source: Lexus Magazine]