The Story Behind the Lexus Spindle Grille

Lexus GS Spindle Grille

Automotive News journalist Hans Greimel has written an in-depth article about the genesis of the new Lexus Spindle Grille:

The epiphany came while GS lead designer Katsuhiko Inatomi was playing with clay models of that car at the company’s studio in Toyota City. On a whim, he tweaked the air intake to connect the lower and upper grilles in a boxlike frame.

“Simon [Humphries, Toyota’s executive chief creative designer] took a peek and said, ‘That’s it! That’s the spindle grille,’ ” Inatomi recalls.

Humphries says the spindle brings the flexibility to span a Lexus lineup running from sporty coupes to sedans and SUVs. “For example, we can create a more elegant grille if the break point” between the upper and lower portions of the grille, he says, “is lowered, or more aggressive if raised.”

The grille’s design language will change with the times, he says. “The proportions may become wider or narrower, it may be rounded or squared,” he says. “But the fundamental bi-conic shape will remain apparent.”

Really enjoyed this article, and would quote the entire thing if I could — here’s another passage about the new design process at Lexus:

The fact that Lexus could even risk floating the brash concept grille underscores an important change in attitude within the brand’s design-review process.

Lexus Executives Hituta & Inatomi

Yo Hiruta, left, Lexus Division global design chief, and Katsuhiko Inatomi, GS lead designer, played key roles in the look of the new spindle grille.

Today’s sign-off committee consists of just 10 people — about a third of what it was just a couple of years ago. The slim-down aims to combat committee-think by seating a panel of styling experts, not the top-level executives who ruled previously.

Tokuo Fukuichi, who leads global design at both Lexus and Toyota and is the force behind the changing mentality, described the shortcomings of the old system bluntly after taking the reins last year.

“It is unlikely you will create a failure,” he said. “But it is also unlikely to deliver an epoch-making design.”

Where the LFA set the tone and the CT added an entirely new segment, it’s the fourth-generation GS that has truly introduced the future of Lexus — as we’ve seen with the sixth-generation ES, there will be a shared design language that goes much further than just the spindle grille.

I’m reminded of a quote from former Lexus Global general manager Karl Schlicht’s Lexus Enthusiast column in January:

“…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.”

Make no mistake — when Lexus chose to reinvent itself in both design and performance, there was the very real risk of alienating existing customers without attracting new buyers. To me, taking such a large gamble shows how deep the changes at Lexus have gone — makes me wonder what other surprises are coming down the pipeline.

Read the full article at Automotive News (Subscription, but should work)

Read the article text at Pastebin (Just in case)