: A reboot for Lexus?



Jesda
04-23-13, 10:24 PM
http://www.autoextremist.com/

Most noteworthy parts are bolded.


Toyota’s luxury-themed division, Lexus, has decided that it wants to join the ranks of the hip and cool. Not content with its bland-tastic, “the cars for people who don’t care about cars” image, Lexus is now going after the young, influential, hip and affluent crowd with a totally different marketing direction and a new brand campaign, complete with a new advertising theme line, “Amazing in Motion” featuring nine-foot mannequin-like puppets (ugh).

Akio Toyoda, scion of the founding family and the guy who’s now running the show at the global automotive giant, is spurring this new directional shift. Toyoda is absolutely convinced that by turning over a new, youthful and hipper leaf, Lexus is just a heartbeat away from achieving automotive greatness - complete with a cool new wrapper.

We should all know the Lexus story by now. Toyota, eager to get a piece of the American luxury market, went after the leaders at the time - Mercedes-Benz and BMW – with a dead-nuts imitation that more closely resembled the Mercedes than a BMW. It was 1989 and no one really gave them a chance, but Lexus redefined what the luxury experience could be at the dealership level, and even though the car – the LS 400 – was a rolling monument to tedium with marginal appeal it didn’t matter. Lexus built one of the most successful luxury brands in the U.S. market purely based on a level of customer service that up to that point was unheard of.

But as successful as that brand launch was, the cars continued to be somnolent sleds, vanilla-themed luxury coaches that were oddly detached from the act of driving. And that was fine, for a while at least. But the competition got a lot better, especially with Audi turning up the wick and even Cadillac manufacturing a new brand aura for itself, and even though Lexus was delivering sales numbers that were still formidable, the brand seemed tired and predictable.

So forays into the performance arena were made, with a line of performance cars developed dubbed “F” to suggest that Lexus could play in the S (Audi), AMG (Mercedes), M (BMW), and V (Cadillac) high-performance luxury game with a lineup of performance models of its own. That didn’t really work either. Sure, they found some customers for these cars, but the brand image didn’t move one iota.

So now Akio Toyoda, the guy who flaunts his gear-headed-ness like a badge of honor, is determined that the Lexus brand image will go from one of purveyors of somnolent sleds to purveyors of the hip and hot.

He turned up the wick with the LFA supercar and now Lexus is poised to introduce the LFA-influenced LF-LC concept to the U.S. market, a car that torched the auto shows with its sheer design presence. And he’s going to use those two vehicles – and their bold new design language – to fuel a renaissance for the brand in terms of image and prestige.

Oh, if it were that easy.

There aren’t enough trendy hipster balls like the one Toyoda staged in the Chelsea district of New York last week for the “new” Lexus that will make a difference. Sure, the design-themed events, those that focus on artists and creative movers and shakers to the detriment of the actual products are fun and get a nanosecond of coverage from the hip-hot media, but they’re like so much marketing cotton candy, offering you a taste that vaporizes before you even have time to think about what just happened. And does anyone in the room (other than the auto journalists invited to cover such events) take anything substantive away about the brand other than it was a good party? Please.

The key word here for Mr. Toyoda is aspirational, which has become the hottest word in auto company marketing circles, especially for the assorted brand champions who aren’t even close to having a whiff of understanding what it really means. He wants Lexus to become a brand that people aspire to, which is exactly the same thing that everyone else is saying to themselves at the other car companies.

I can tell you what this talk sounds like in the marketing department at your average Belchfire Motors (feel free to insert your favorite car company here): “We want to be hot. We want to be hip. We want to be the brand that everyone talks about first. And we want to be different from all the rest. We want consumers to love us, not because we’re eminently likable, but because we do it better than anyone else.”

How is Lexus going to be different? Well, let’s see, by being “Amazing in Motion"? Uh, maybe, if the planets align just so and everything falls into place in a miracle of marketing that stuns the automotive world and ends up rewriting the history books. (But then again that’s like saying Alfa Romeo is going to be selling 75,000 units here in the U.S. market by 2014. Oh, wait a minute, that’s another column.)

"I will personally drive Lexus forward with beautifully designed product that is fun to drive," Toyoda told the crowd last Friday night in New York, according to Automotive News.

Really, Akio, you are personally going to drive Lexus forward? Uh-oh. Where have we heard this before? Sorry to remind you, Akio, but this business is littered with broken-down executives who insisted that they were going to personally change the market or change a brand’s image overnight.

And unfortunately for Mr. Toyoda I can say with a fair amount of certainty that it ain’t happening. At least not anytime soon. It has taken Audi fifteen years of high-level image wrangling to get where they are today and Cadillac is now in its fourteenth year of rejuvenation and they still have miles to go. So if Mr. Toyoda thinks this is going to be a finger-snap transformation, he is going to be bitterly disappointed.

Besides, chasing youth and hipness for an automaker is like chasing candy-striped unicorns, especially when the young and hip can smell image wrangling from a mile away. (And everyone’s doing it, too, including Nordstrom. The ultra-conservative, upscale retailer is attempting to reinvent itself with a new digital campaign "YOUphoria" designed to make the store hipper - and different - to young consumers. Sound familiar? You can see it here, here and here.)

There’s an old auto industry adage that goes like this: You can sell a young person’s car to the older folk, but you can’t sell an old person’s car to the young.

Here’s a tip, Akio: Build great cars. There's no magically hip bullet at your disposal.

And if you want to really reinvent the Lexus image, buckle-up and settle in for the long haul.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

77CDV
04-23-13, 11:56 PM
Poor Toyota! First their bff Consumer Distorts turns on them, and now their Palos Verdes Corollas have apparently lost their mojo. I really don't know what defines a "luxury" car anymore. In the space between Spark and a Bentley, new cars are pretty much interchangeable tbh.

orconn
04-24-13, 12:35 AM
^^^ Hey, what's a Palos Verdes Corolla?

CadillacLuke24
04-24-13, 01:07 AM
Poor Toyota! First their bff Consumer Distorts turns on them, and now their Palos Verdes Corollas have apparently lost their mojo. I really don't know what defines a "luxury" car anymore. In the space between Spark and a Bentley, new cars are pretty much interchangeable tbh.

Consumer Distorts :lol: I APPROVE!

So somebody finally figured out they're nothing more than dishwashers on wheels, eh? Bout damn time!

Aron9000
04-24-13, 03:06 AM
Consumer Distorts :lol: I APPROVE!

So somebody finally figured out they're nothing more than dishwashers on wheels, eh? Bout damn time!

Hate all you want, but Lexus moves a ton of cars, not as many as BMW or Benz, but they kicked the crap out of Cadillac.

http://www.motorauthority.com/news/1081451_bmw-tops-u-s-luxury-auto-sales-in-2012

Although I will agree most of those sales are of the "dishwasher" Camry based RX SUV and ES sedan that I despise. Lexus does have some hotter looking stuff out right now or in the pipeline, I personally like the new "spindle" grill, even if it does look like the Predator's face.

2013 GS350 For about $50-55k its good value for the $$$$ compared to the Germans
http://photos.ecarlist.com/Dy/dL/0S/YX/Ve/uZ/YC/zE/n0/Rx/UQ_640.jpg

2013 LS460
http://www.digitaltrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/2013-Lexus-LS-460-F-Sport-front-angle.jpg


All that being said, if $$$ wasn't an issue and I were to trade it in after 3-5 years, I'd buy an Audi over anything else on the marketplace, except maybe a CTS-V If I were going to drive a car into the ground, no doubt I'd buy the Lexus.

CTSCHICK
04-24-13, 08:11 AM
Bland and monotony is what comes to mind when I look at a Lexus but I have to assume that is what their customers want perhaps not new customers though

ryannel2003
04-24-13, 08:18 AM
The problem with Lexus is even though they have this newly agressive design theme going on the reviews are still stating a lot of the cars have something that is less than satisfactory as far as driving pleasure goes. Lexus rode a great wave of success in the 90's building high quality, reliable, comfortable cars that performed as they intended. The later part of the 2000's was when they started to experience some downfalls though not nearly as damaging to the brand (not really damaging at all) as some of Cadillac's past indiscretions.

I've warmed up to the current Lexus design theme which is love or hate. Great thing about that is it gets people talking about your product. I would liken this design theme to how people felt about the 2003 CTS with the original Art and Science.

Jesda
04-24-13, 08:18 AM
Hate all you want, but Lexus moves a ton of cars, not as many as BMW or Benz, but they kicked the crap out of Cadillac.


Lexus is on a gentle downward slope because the old folks who loved them are literally kicking the bucket while younger buyers are drawn to BMW and MB.

You'd think Lexus would have learned from Lincoln and Cadillac.


The LFA was an act of brand desperation. Firing out a one-off exotic and slapping an "L" badge on it will -not- move a brand forward. The entire brand has to embrace a completely different design and engineering philosophy that permeates the entire lineup.

ryannel2003
04-24-13, 08:21 AM
Lexus is on a gentle downward slope because the old folks who loved them are literally kicking the bucket while younger buyers are drawn to BMW and MB.

You'd think Lexus would have learned from Lincoln and Cadillac.


The LFA was an act of brand desperation. Firing out a one-off exotic and slapping an "L" badge on it will -not- move a brand forward. The entire brand has to embrace a completely different design and engineering philosophy that permeates the entire lineup.

Lexus has one huge advantage to those brand and that is reliability and quality. In this day and age with people keeping their cars longer Lexus might be able to benefit from an ad campaign showcasing their awards for quality and long term reliability. No one can argue that Lexus doesn't build a great vehicle, though I find them boring.

Jesda
04-24-13, 08:43 AM
Lexus has one huge advantage to those brand and that is reliability and quality. In this day and age with people keeping their cars longer Lexus might be able to benefit from an ad campaign showcasing their awards for quality and long term reliability. No one can argue that Lexus doesn't build a great vehicle, though I find them boring.

Indeed, but your typical luxury buyer these days has a three-year lease.

ryannel2003
04-24-13, 08:48 AM
Indeed, but your typical luxury buyer these days has a three-year lease.

I thought leasing was more typical for BMW and Mercedes Benz as those cars tend to start having quality issues arise after the 4th or 5th year of ownership? Even then Lexus spends less time in the dealership where a quick browsing of the internet shows lots of software and quality complaints seem to be common on the latest BMW's.

Jesda
04-24-13, 09:01 AM
I thought leasing was more typical for BMW and Mercedes Benz as those cars tend to start having quality issues arise after the 4th or 5th year of ownership? Even then Lexus spends less time in the dealership where a quick browsing of the internet shows lots of software and quality complaints seem to be common on the latest BMW's.

That's a big part of it, but high residuals also help bring down lease payments.

No doubt, people are justified in trusting Lexus over other luxury brands. The customer service experience is unmatched.

ryannel2003
04-24-13, 09:07 AM
That's a big part of it, but high residuals also help bring down lease payments.

No doubt, people are justified in trusting Lexus over other luxury brands. The customer service experience is unmatched.

But it does seem people care less about things like that these days as brands like Cadillac have stepped up tremendously in customer service. My old dealership is being remodeled and the owner told me people will be greeted and have service advisors with iPads in their hands waiting to input information and then lead them to the new showroom. So if luxury brands are now stepping up in customer service where Lexus still excels the cars have to sell themselves now and Lexus is learning the hard way that boring styling isn't going to help them keep afloat in the future. With BMW now making all the cars softer they will continue to reign as #1 luxury car brand in the US.

The real worry for luxury brands should be Audi. They aren't screwing around.

CTSCHICK
04-24-13, 09:20 AM
My coworkers that drive Audi's complain the most about their dealers and service it boggles my mind why they keep buying or leasing again and again while continuing to complain but they do.
The one thing that sticks out about them with me is they all seem like they are on a count down timer to get rid of them before the timing belt service.

talismandave
04-24-13, 01:10 PM
Hate all you want, but Lexus moves a ton of cars, not as many as BMW or Benz, but they kicked the crap out of Cadillac.
2013 GS350 For about $50-55k its good value for the $$$$ compared to the Germans If I were going to drive a car into the ground, no doubt I'd buy the Lexus.

....and Hyundai and Kia are eating everyone's lunch.

orconn
04-24-13, 02:04 PM
^^^ Yeah, I am sure my son isn't the first one percenter to buy a Kia!

vincentm
04-24-13, 02:21 PM
Bland and monotony is what comes to mind when I look at a Lexus but I have to assume that is what their customers want perhaps not new customers though


The'yre the new iPhone, where as in you can slap the lexus "L" emblem on a turd and folks will still lap it up

CTSCHICK
04-24-13, 04:26 PM
The'yre the new iPhone, where as in you can slap the lexus "L" emblem on a turd and folks will still lap it up

Even though I am all OS based at work I wouldnt know I use a Galaxy s4 :)