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Lexus President Sawa: “Every car has an individual character”

Lexus LC Design

A recent Boston Globe interview with Yoshihiro Sawa, president of Lexus International, is full of insight into the vehicle design process of the brand:

“Previously, the system was different, and we listened to too many people’s opinion. But now we decide in a small group; we don’t hear so much from the market. If we research too much like before, we lose our identity.”

“We’re trying to create a new language, a new grammar. It’s not so easy to get to that goal. A car should have some sort of strong character or beauty. Too much discussion can spoil that kind of pure direction. Of course, we have discussions, but it’s what is the best solution. But the proportion or shape of the grille? Maybe we shouldn’t listen too much.”

Lexus Yoshihiro Sawa

This focus on “strong character” has been on display with the latest round of Lexus vehicles — the LC coupe, LS sedan, and UX crossover can all be said to embody a specific viewpoint, with opinionated decisions on everything from design to engine selection:

  • Lexus’ commitment to retaining the design of the LF-LC concept meant developing an entirely new suspension type for the LC coupe.
  • Despite every previous LS sedan (and all competitors) offering a V8 engine, Lexus released its latest generation with a twin-turbo V6 because it fit the “personality” of the car better.
  • The UX crossover is so focused on its primary target market of people living in urban areas, one of its key features is a small turning radius that makes it easy to navigate in crowded cities.

All of this is intentional according to a master plan, according to Sawa:

“The Japanese sense of beauty is key to differentiate us from other OEM’s design,” Sawa said. “I think this is our original way of expressing our beauty. Comparing other OEM’s cars, their design is always the same. But ours, LS, LC, is a little bit different. People can tell it’s a Lexus, and every car has an individual character. That’s key.”

Comments
"...We don’t hear so much from the market."

Yes, that is the problem.
S
While this may be true, they still have to understand that many of the limitations they impose on their models prevent the cars to express said individual character.

A random example? AVS suspension limited to F-Sport trims only, aluminium pedals limited again to F-Sport models, a specific design of rims (not always --> see UX) for each trim that you have to like even when it comes to the dimension otherwise you have to pass, forced NuLuxe without the possibility of picking real leather as a paid optional, Mark Levinson only on highest trims, etc..

I like Lexus, otherwise I wouldn't be here, but lately the competition has been making good alternatives while offering a more sensible amount of customization to their vehicles. I'm thinking about Volvo for instance.
Since Android Auto is coming nothing to complain:) Maybe more hybrid powertrains: for all models except F-range and more powerful IS hybrid.
  • Despite every previous LS sedan (and all competitors) offering a V8 engine, Lexus released its latest generation with a twin-turbo V6 because it fit the “personality” of the car better.
That is why Lexus has been always and will always be my FAVORITE car brand of all time. After all those fancy brands where they are showing off their fancy material and mostly just buying just because "ohhh it's a Mercedes, ohhh it's a Bentley". Honestly, as I see it now. Lexus is already in a stage where when people look at any segment in the Lexus line-up will be "WOWED". And that what made Lexus in my eyes currently is more unique to any car brand. Now you can proudly tell to people that every Lexus has it's own character, unlike for example Mercedes where all of the line-up or at least 70% soon will be a 100% look alike. I mean come on, have you seen the new (Mercedes GTs Gran Coupe & Mercedes CLS) ?. Can you even feel that unique when driving a 170k$+ vs 90k+?? #NOT (My opnion). And of course, I won't be comparing many other companies. So, my point is. Lexus has made itself so different every since the LFA. Best part, it does not try to be any of the German or British rivals. It's just getting better and better in its unique way. I can guarantee that.

[Photo attached: "Example"].
S
The sad thing is that nowadays people don't care about how a car drives, they only want a literal smartphone on wheels (Tesla).

German car makers keep focusing their marketing on telling us how big is the screen of their infotainment system, Mercedes here makes commercial to amuse people about the "Hey Mercedes!" feature on their car (in the meantime the price of a base A Class rises and the car loses the rear multilink suspension :joy:) and generally people perceive the "premiumness" of a car based on how many gadgets there are on a said model.

Keep in mind that this is what they want on paper because fully loaded models are virtual only, you won't see a loaded up Mercedes on the road but you'll find plenty of pre-configured (by the dealer) models ready to be leased, diesel of course if we're talking about Europe.

Are you familiar with the Alfa Romeo Giulia? Here in Italy people and the journalists complained about the lack of full led lights (it doesn't care if the car is equipped with 35w Xenon HID lamps which are better than most standard base full led systems) and about the general "lack" of technology/gizmos in the model. Nobody talked about the carbon fiber prop shaft and other parts, about the state of the art suspension, the finely tuned ZF 8HP gearbox, the top notch Poltrona Frau leather (the same used on Maserati and Ferrari cars), the full size aluminium paddles and how the car drives. Nope.

In a perfect world were people cared about cars, Alfa Romeo would be selling at least 10x times more and the same goes for Lexus especially in Europe, but for two different reasons (driver's engagement vs refinement/luxury)...
Lexus released its latest generation with a twin-turbo V6 because it fit the “personality” of the car better.
Wow.
Hamed Al Ketbi
So, my point is. Lexus has made itself so different every since the LFA. Best part, it does not try to be any of the German or British rivals. It's just getting better and better in its unique way. I can guarantee that.
I agree completely. The last 10 years have produced wonderful vehicles - even the “old fart” ES has been transformed. I am looking forward to what they will bring to market in the next decade.
I do believe Lexus is trying and really hard to be something else, and they have an amazing lineup. But, as Toyota do, they keep losing ground on alternative propulsions after hybrid... This idea was launched 20 years ago, even with the amazing system improvement the costumer needs to feel it's going forward and not stuck in the past.
Sadman
Are you familiar with the Alfa Romeo Giulia? Here in Italy people and the journalists complained about the lack of full led lights (it doesn't care if the car is equipped with 35w Xenon HID lamps which are better than most standard base full led systems) and about the general "lack" of technology/gizmos in the model.
In the US reviewers cared enough about how it drives to name it Car of the Year in several places, even though it tended to break down repeatedly in expensive ways during their testing. (Supposedly the production models are more reliable).
Ian Schmidt
In the US reviewers cared enough about how it drives to name it Car of the Year in several places, even though it tended to break down repeatedly in expensive ways during their testing. (Supposedly the production models are more reliable).
Not only that, but it is the Ferrari-engined top-of-the-line Quadrifoglio Verde that tends to have most of the mechanical and electrical issues. The more mundane 2-liter 4-cylinder turbo models (the vast majority of those sold or leased) are far less trouble-prone, based on anecdotal evidence (including a cousin of mine who's currently leasing one).
L
I think they need to continue the push upmarket and that means everything including the dealer and customer experience. They cannot get past that Lexus engines in the past were always arguably class leading and today they lag behind.

Imagine the LC or LS with a brand new 500hp V-8? I think it would have truly been raved about. They are nailing design for the most part, at worst have become a conversation piece but the hearts in these cars need help.
L
I think they need to continue the push upmarket and that means everything including the dealer and customer experience. They cannot get past that Lexus engines in the past were always arguably class leading and today they lag behind.

Imagine the LC or LS with a brand new 500hp V-8? I think it would have truly been raved about. They are nailing design for the most part, at worst have become a conversation piece but the hearts in these cars need help.
Will1991
I do believe Lexus is trying and really hard to be something else, and they have an amazing lineup. But, as Toyota do, they keep losing ground on alternative propulsions after hybrid... This idea was launched 20 years ago, even with the amazing system improvement the costumer needs to feel it's going forward and not stuck in the past.
Full BEVs first went on sale around 1904, so hybrids are actually a much newer thing (they wouldn't have been possible prior to microprocessors and drive-by-wire). And until batteries improve a lot, PHEVs do probably the best job of splitting the difference.
Fully agree with the engine comment and how Lexus is behind in terms of power and performance. I hope Lexus can see the growing number of mid-level competitors with real engines. Cars like the G70 and upcoming TLX Type-S are set to do battle with the M340i, C43 and S4. Even Kia has a TTV6, which is insane. The current NA V6 is a good engine, but it no longer cuts it in the IS.
Ian Schmidt
Full BEVs first went on sale around 1904, so hybrids are actually a much newer thing (they wouldn't have been possible prior to microprocessors and drive-by-wire). And until batteries improve a lot, PHEVs do probably the best job of splitting the difference.
I believe Alfa has actually done so, because I see a lot more Giulias on the roads now, as many as ISs in So Cal...both have incredible lease deals of course.

It helps the Giulia's cause when Jeremy Clarkson owns a Giulia QV now.

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