While at the Tokyo Motor Show last month, I had a chance to interview Kiyotaka Ise, the president of Lexus International. The following is a transcript of our conversation, by way of a Japanese translator.
Lexus Enthusiast: It must have been daunting to transform the Lexus brand over such a short period of time, how did you manage to maintain balance between performance & luxury?
Ise-san: The main challenge was maintaining the typical characteristics of Lexus — a quiet running car — with the feeling of “fun to drive”. We wanted to bring up the performance level as much as possible, and we were able to tackle this at a technical level.
The other challenge we faced was in regard to the design — we have typically had a tame look, a design that would liked by everybody. The design is more aggressive and strong looking this time around, and that’s best represented by the spindle grille.
Through the discussion phase, there was a fear that loyal Lexus customers would dislike this change. Switching to a more emotional and aggressive design was a risk, but we prioritized and made this decision. So far, we have not heard any negative voices from loyal customers, so I think this transition has gone quite well.
You mentioned yesterday (at an earlier press conference) that you were in charge of Lexus motorsports, how important a role will motorsports play in defining and refining Lexus?
We want to continue on with our current collaborations in motorsports. When you have a really excellent car, the full driving performance is realized on a closed racing circuit with the car driven by professional drivers.
As a luxury brand, we want the general consumer to know the ultimate performance level of these cars.
You also mentioned yesterday about being unsatisfied with a single F performance model, what has been the biggest difficulty in producing additional F models?
It’s simply a matter of resource availability, we have to allocate available resources wisely.
The redesigned GS represented a new chapter. Formally at the time, it was sedans and SUVS, but we’re now adding a sporty element — the RC, a new F model and whatnot. Because we’ve added this secondary factor, the resources are being pulled in that direction.
As for the next F model, that will be dealt with. (Laughs)
(Earlier this week, a second Lexus F performance model was announced — see more details here.)
Now that you’ve redesigned the entire lineup, what’s the biggest challenge facing Lexus right now?
It’s only been two years since we started all this effort of fully redesigning the entire lineup with the spindle grille. We need to continue adding to the innovation of the design, continue to evolve this design. The LF-NX is one example of this — I think we’re still in the middle of this new chapter.
Perhaps the next challenge, the next step of our evolution, is when we launch the LF-LC into the market.
Very excited for that day. Thank you, Ise-san, for speaking with me.
My special thanks to Lexus International president Kiyotaka Ise for taking the time to answer my questions. 有難うございます。!