Insights from a Lexus Insider: Karl Schlicht on the New Lexus Design

Lexus New Design Karl Schlicht

The following is a message from Karl Schlicht, General Manager of Global Lexus Product & Marketing Planning, who will be addressing Lexus Enthusiast readers directly from time to time.

I would like to thank all of the Lexus enthusiasts that responded to the LF-LC questions I posed two weeks ago.

We have read and shared every single one of your comments, and your responses were (frankly) no surprise to us here at Lexus HQ — you want us to find a way to get something like the LF-LC and other coupes into our lineup. I can’t promise anything as you read this, but we are as excited as you are! In fact, we are working on many new projects here, and the hardest part is making choices — design X vs Y and model A vs B.

I recently had an interview in Detroit where a journalist thought our Spindle Grille was a mistake. While this was a rare comment among many that believe we are heading in the right direction, I told him (politely, I hope) that it’s good there are people that don’t like our design – because good design will split opinion, and it will make you love something instead of just being OK with it.

Lexus GS in Obsidian

For too long, Lexus designs were nice and normal — we want to create a stronger emotion for our customers, especially enthusiasts like you. Starting with the new GS, we have reduced the number of people judging Lexus designs, because we believe that to make great designs, the fewer people involved in the process, the better.

Lexus is making some bolder moves in design, introducing striking new interiors, and making big changes in the driving character (or feel) — we hope you like where we are heading, and I will continue to check this great site out to see what you are all saying!

Karl Schlicht is in charge of the Lexus worldwide product and marketing planning division, which was formed two years ago to help guide the brand globally.


  1. Thank you, Karl, for responding to us.  We truly appreciate it! I have every confidence that we will see cars like the LF-LC in the not too distant future. My last point of contention with Lexus is the manual transmission.  Here's hoping that ONE MODEL can be kept around for enthusiast drivers, with enough power to be aspirational.  The IS250 ain't getting it done!  Needs more power to be class-competitive, and to attract buyers from the Germans, who actually sell manuals proudly, and with class-leading powertrains! Hopefully, this "emotional" path includes the straw that stirs many enthusiasts emotions, the manual transmission. You have my utmost confidence that you are on a righteous path.  Keep up the good work! And good job with the Super Bowl ad!  If I see another ad with dogs, I'm gonna send a live one down the old chute! BD
    • But the IS350 is most powerful in-class!
    • Not really. The G37 is the most powerful in its class. But, that is besides the point. He is talking about manual transmissions. Lexus is thinking too much about money all the time, which is what brought to this point where both BMW and Mercedes are trouncing them in sales in North America.
    • The tsunami, and the related supply shortages, are what gave the Germans the sales advantage.  That's THE ONLY difference between 2011 and the previous 10 years! It was certainly nothing that they did.  They slapped just as many thousands on the hood last year as they did the year before...... BD
  2. It's nice to see the enthusiasts thoughts don't go unnoticed. Thanks.
  3. " because good design will split opinion, and it will make you love something instead of just being OK with it." That's a great statement that shows both confidence and a greater level of maturity within Lexus. Your IS350 ads have always been exciting to watch and so was the latest GS350 F-Sport Superbowl ad. That being said, I hope Lexus continues with the same level of excitement and not only challenge its competitors but challenge its own staff.
  4. Agree. If the M-Division can offer manual transmission. Lexus should also offer this on the IS-F or any F variant. Money is not an issue and enthusiast will pay that extra premium to get the car they want. AMG/M-Div has proven this time and time again. 
  5. That's good. He can take a little hate and realize what's better.
  6. GS options/package pricing is up on the Lexus website I believe the on-sale date is February 17th BD
  7. I'm a bit astounded by the fact that people dont understand that people who dislike the previous Lexus-designs dont do so because of any objectic reasons. They who hated it, thought it was bland, hated it because it was Lexus, nothing else. The same people hate the new design to, because they dislike Lexus and Toyota and are in love with some other car-maker. It has nothing to do with design. So please dont take the haters serious. And dont take the people at this blog - who probably wants blinking LEDs all over the car, 24 inch rims and 12 tailpipes - serious either. A GS or an IS from 2006 looks just as fresh today as it did back then. This tells us that Lexus' design - then - was pretty amazing actually and better thought through than most car-designs.
    • The previous Lexus designs were spot on especially the IS. Lexus was due for a change and I think the new design of the GS is great. It's different but great. It shows power and confidence. As for the LEDs, I would have loved it if Lexus used the solid L-lights of the LF-LC rather than LED. LED DTR lights are extremely common it became boring.
  8. I cannot agree more with you, Thomas. I think the first generation L-finesse had really perfect designs. In a way that whatever line or detail is changed, the design cannot be improved. It stood out so much from the competition.  I cannot say the same about the new GS. There are quite a few small details (fangs around the spindle grill, taller front fenders, etc.) that can be improved. 
    • Yep. And the GS F-sport front is awful. And like you said the fangs. Yuck. This is a result of the whiners who say they want a more "bold" design from Lexus. So we have lost the elegance of Lexus of the past forever, and now have something with an ugly face instead. Why couldnt the "whiners" and so-called enthusiasts just have bought an Audi or something if they wanted a huge grille, the we could have actually bought the Lexus' that we liked.
    • It's interesting -- the first-gen L-Finesse design was such a dramatic change from the previous models that it took me a long time to get used to them. I preferred the older models for a long time, until my design sensibilities finally caught up with L-Finesse. I think that we're facing the same thing with these new models, especially with the GS as the front-runner -- it's all going to take some getting used to.
  9. I am much more opposed to slapping the "spindle grill" on every new car rather than the design motif itself.  Soon enough the cars will end up looking the same and less distinguishable from each other like so many German cars --  even some American brands.  It's a slippery slope in the industry, I guess. I'm sure that the folks at Lexus don't want people (or customers) to be mistake an LX for an RX or the like. 
  10. The idea behind the "spindle grille", and why it will spread throughout the lineup, is to give the brand a cohesive look, and for it to resonate from a distance.   It brings the vehicles together, like a family, and it enhances the brand image with a signature form. Lexus will show different styles of the spindle as we see the new models.  It's not a stamp job.  Each grille will have it's own style to it, but the basic design will tie in with the family overall. This will also help build the brand's image overseas, as Lexus looks to become more than the company that dominates the United States. BD
    • I am fairly confident that I have agreed with every comment BD has posted on this site. And on You tube aswell!
  11. That´s what i thought all the time!! The "topic" is not "IF" Lexus will build model A or B but "WHICH" model do we build in the near future - if i understand Mr. Schlicht correct. And this process takes time - looks like too much time! Of course we will never know on which projects Lexus is working right now. But i would say to Lexus "Rahter bring more models into production (into a reality) than cancel some models for i don´t know which reason!!" Perhaps it turns out that one of these models are more successful than Lexus have every thought!
    • Yeah, "perhaps". To put it mildly, your so called idea is terrible. Your "idea" of just putting som models into the market and see how it goes, would make Lexus go bankrupt. The development of the cars cost more money than you can imagine. And if they dont sell; goodby Lexus.
    • i guess you are right...but so i am wrong when i say i would add TODAY e.g. the CT as a sedan to the Lexus lineup in many countrys where people loves sedans?? You need a few more machines for the stamping parts but you can build this model on the same line as the hatchback at Toyota Motor Kyushu. The same applies to the RX as a 7-seater. Or something like a 4-door cóupe from the LS. I am very sorry... but i just don´t see where the problem is....
    • Yes! Ofcourse you are wrong. Extremely wrong.
  12. "Bold" does NOT mean "UGLY" or even "radically different" - most lexus drivers are not boy racers! "Bold" must mean strong evolution in design - strong lines and beautiful stances - not a spindle grille that will date badly - I still cannot see how the new grille will be applied e.g. to the IS range - which is really a great looking car - look to the likes of Jaguar or lotus: simplicity is of the essence - especially in Japanese design - to may angles and awkward shapes never ends well in my opinion. "Bold" in its essence should be under the hood primarily in terms of aggression. Let's see what happens - I think the IS will be the test as to whether the "new" shape will work - I for one - am skeptical - but optimistic that Lexus will listen ....
    • I must agree wholeheartedly with "asdub". As a IS350 owner I will likely not purchase a Lexus as my next vehicle if they come with this new grille design. I would expect this type of unnecessary boldness from Infiniti. Not a fan of the design at all.
    • Out of curiosity, have you seen the new GS in person? I only ask because it's difficult to really judge a car design without seeing it in real life first.
    • I saw one in my rear view today! Looked awesome. It's bold design looks really good on the road, and that is where it counts.
  13. Karl states that lexus design should divide opinion and whilst that is true, the fact remains that to achieve sales numbers one model requires various engines and specifications wherever the market may be. trying to rely on one or two engines per sector (IS, GS, LS, RX) narrows the options and trim levels available to customers. lexus achieved approx 45,000 sales in Europe in 2011 of which most of that was in UK, each of the three German brands sold 500,000 cars in Europe in 2011, which means after 22 years in Europe .. lexus has only achieved 10% of sales of the other three, this can mostly be blames on lack of variants/engines (inc diesel engines) and lack of media attention plus the fact that over the past decade (exc the IS) the designs have somewhat been staid. Whilst i agree that the german brands can at times be conservative or ugly (previous generation 5 series), they seem to come out with cohesive designs which the public want
    • Wrong! Lexus dont "cheap" their cars down like the German brands do. That's why less people buy them. They cant afford them. You can have a merceds with about 130 Hp and cloth seats and think you are so cool allthough it didnt cost more than a Mazda. Remember that cars in general are a great deal more expensive in Europe compared to America. Not everyone drives a Royce either. That dont mean Rolls Royce are doing anything wrong. Please Lexus; dont cheap your cars down. Only sixes and RWD(I forgive you for the CT).
    • Thomas, whilst i hypothetically agree somewhat with your idea that Lexus should not lessen the brand by providing smaller engine variants in the US, it is the only way Lexus can sell more cars in Europe to challenge the established German trio. To prove that your comment does not add up, the main trio's reputation has never been tarnished (as some car critics assumed it would) with the subsequent release of the 1 series, A3 and A class cars ..... each of these models sell around 200,000 cars annually yes, cars are more expensive in UK/Europe than in US .... one example being the LS460 in US starts at $55-60k but in UK before the hybrid model became the sole car of that range the LS460 was US $90,000 (£60,000), this proves that we in the UK/Europe need smaller engines in each model range such as the GS, LS and RX
    • I dont agree and Im european too. Ofcourse Lexus would sell more cars in Europe if they cheapend the cars down like Audi, BMW and Mercedes does. But Toyota - who owns Lexus - already have cars that compete with the cheap, less premium germans; Toyota. By the way: Lexus in Norway and Sweden have said they wont ever sell  Lexus' with diesel-engines(cheap, cheap and smokey) again. They used to offer the IS 220 but not anymore.
  14. As a lifelong Lexus fan, originally I was not enamored with the new GS design.  But after viewing the F-Sport model today in the flesh, all I can say is WOW!  One more time, WOW!  This is truly a beautiful automobile and most of the reservations I had about the styling previously have been eliminated.  Now hopefully you'll give us (me) a V-8 and possibly provide some other interior colors & aluminum/wood trim options (PLEASE).
  15. Obviously, there is no doubt in anyone's mind, at least in mind of people who wish Lexus success, that Lexus needs LF-LC badly. The ONLY quibble I have is that many car makers occasionally show incredibly luscious concept cars, only to disappoint the followers with watered down production. If you can bring the production car in AS CLOSE SHAPE TO THE CONCEPT AS POSSIBLE, including fantastic interior, you will experience tremendous success, beyond wildest imagination. This is the most effective tease you ever did in the Lexus history. Bring it on, and as soon as possible, hopefully announced before Olympics.  As for GS-F, I tested it last few days twice, second time extensively. It's a great car in every sense. It looks good in real life, although I like old GS design better, but that's a personal preference. But interior is success! I just wish you learn where to put speakers, mainly tweeter and midranges for true audiophile experience. The way you placed them in new RX 350 for example is much more conducive to good wave spread then far away close to the windshield. Pseudo audiophiles would not care as you get diffused sound, but it's really a wrong place to put speakers. I hope you'll change that soon and place them in proper place. And consult some true audiophiles in the process, not just marketing guys.
  16. Hi Karl: I went to several Lexus dealers but I could not buy a 2013 GS F-Sports with the Mark Leveingson sound system. All dealers checked and told me there is none in that config in the US. Only the GS with Luxury package has the ML option. Check the build your lexus page and it confirms what the dealers are saying. What is going on? Why the F-sport model don't have ML as an option now? This is forcing the F-sport buyers to compormise and not able to get the best config possible. How come Lexus is so stupid and pour cold water on the enthusiasts drivers they are trying so hard to get right at the launch. Please do something and make the Mark Levening system available on the GS F-sport as quickly as possible. Otherwise, Lexus will lose more customers that it is trying so hard to get.
  17. I love this Lexus model, Its look really cool and huge. but I agree with "Howard" Lexus will lose more customers.
  18. Also, I went to Lexus dealer with a friend of mine, and we both wanted to buy GS F model, but guess what, it's available ONLY in aluminum trim. Neither one of us liked it, and both of us canceled our decision based on that. It may sound silly, but hey spending money on a luxury car and being limited to only one option because some marketing guys think that aluminum trim is "sporty?" Ir really doesn't make sense to limit people that way, I absolutely can't get the reason why, but I guarantee you Lexus won't get my money with those games played with trims. And do we have to wait another 5 years for a matte walnut finish to be available? I saw it on LS 460 sport, and it's gorgeous. People who buy luxury cars don't care to spend even extra few grands for something they want. But if you are selling luxury car and limit customers to one option, that's insane!