Toyota wants to foster ‘Lexus envy’

2018 Lexus LC 500h

2018 Lexus LC 500h

Lexus, despite its durable quality and customer service achievements, has never quite captured the cache its German rivals have held for so long. However, that may soon change as the Toyota luxury brand is working tirelessly to create “Lexus envy.”

Automotive News (subscription required) spoke with outgoing Lexus International President Tokuo Fukuichi, who declared Lexus hasn’t exactly reached its aspirational potential compared to the Germans.

“When you’re stuck in traffic, people look at the driver in the Mercedes as a person who has made it in society, and they will envy you,” said Fukuichi. “We haven’t fully achieved that compared with the German three.”

Fukuichi taken a new position inside Lexus as the luxury brand’s Chief Branding Officer. He will be responsible for crafting the aura needed to prop Lexus to new heights.

And the effects are already beginning. The Lexus LC will sit as the brand’s halo vehicle, with sharp, distinctive styling that certainly won’t be confused for a mass-market Toyota. During the media launch of the LC, Lexus also brought its Sport Yacht concept, a carbon-fiber vessel with power coming from two 5.0-liter V-8s. It even showcased a mockup of the Skyjet that will be featured as the spaceship in the upcoming film “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.”

Fukuichi seems more confident than ever he’ll be able to achieve the success he envisions, since Toyota President Akio Toyoda has given him the power to advise product planning, technology, marketing, and more in his new role.

2018 Lexus LS 500h

2018 Lexus LS 500h

On the product planning side, the newly minted branding officer will be more conscious than ever to separate Lexus from Toyota. Careful platform consideration will be key.

“Let’s clearly define Lexus and wait and decide that some things can only be Lexus and not applied to Toyota,” Fukuichi said. “I would like to clarify that sort of distinction.”

Lexus has long held a large portion of the U.S. luxury vehicle market, but more recently, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have resurged towards the top; Lexus volume dropped 23 percent through February despite the market growing. The story doesn’t improve on a global scale, either.

But, if there’s one person who seems suited to inject light into Lexus, it’s Fukuichi.

“Lexus’ strengths such as quality and service can’t be fully appreciated unless you’re in the car driving,” Fukuichi said. “Better quality isn’t that necessary. Better brand power is.”

–Sean Szymkowski

Check Also

Lexus LC convertible reportedly a go, LC F still possible

As if the Lexus LC couldn't get any better looking, the Japanese luxury brand has given an LC convertible the green light, according to an Auto Express report published on Wednesday. Even better news: an LC F performance model is still on the table. The news comes from an unnamed source familiar with the LC's future plans who told the outlet an LC...

Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment system is like Google Assistant for your car

For years we have wondered why our cars' infotainment systems can't be as simple and smart as our phones. It took until 2018, but Mercedes-Benz has finally hit that target. The answer is called Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX for short), and it's the German automaker's new infotainment system, which will launch in the new A-Class subcompact later this...