If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that we’re always striving to bring you a behind-the-scenes pass into the world of Lexus.
But is there anything we could share with you that you didn’t already know? Read on to find out…
1. Lexus unveiled its very first car, the LS 400, in Cologne, Germany
The moment the first Lexus was officially unveiled to the global press, in the spring of 1989, was one the company’s directors knew they had only one chance to get right. First impressions count, after all.
And so, in a strategic move that also sent a clear message to the brand’s European competitors, it was neither in Japan nor in the United States that Lexus made its debut. Instead, on a mild morning in May, the sleek curves and understated design of the LS 400 were finally revealed to a throng of reporters on the lawns of the company’s German office in Cologne – home turf of some of its fiercest competitors.
It was an unspoken message that was clearly understood. Keith Crain, publisher of Automotive News, was among those who at the time noted this declaration of intent. “See, we’re not messing around,” he deduced from Lexus’s message. “We’re good.”
2. The Calty Arts Project
When Katsushi Nosho was initially tasked to come up with a concept for the Lexus SC 400, Lexus’s first luxury coupe, his response was far from conventional. The inspirational executive vice president of the Calty Design Research studio, a Lexus design center in California, USA, Nosho regularly challenged his designers to push the boundaries of automobile design – but his approach to this project was particularly unorthodox.
“I don’t want you to do any sketches or foam-scale models like we always do,” Nosho instructed. “Instead, I want you to use an artistic, hands-on method.”
Nosho’s approach became known as the Calty Arts Project, an unofficial programme that included an offshoot studio where a small handful of Calty designers and modelers were taught about fine art and sculpture. The project was initially met with skepticism – no other car designers were taking a similar approach – but the initiative inspired various legendary experiments, one of which laid the foundations of the SC 400.
This important experiment consisted of plaster-filled balloons that were randomly molded into shape, photographed and projected onto a screen. The projector distorted the balloon shapes and one of the unusual forms that caught the eye of the designers was an elongated profile – a form that became the signature shape of the SC 400. The mission of the Calty Arts Project was to embrace art and technology through an intellectual approach to car design, to challenge existing convention and to nurture creative thought. It remains a fundamental pillar of the Lexus philosophy today.
3. Lexus in pop culture
Ever since Lexus was founded, the hip-hop world has celebrated the brand. For instance, rapper Ice Cube name-checks a Lexus coupe in Trespass (1992), R. Kelly mentions the SC in his 2003 song Ignition, and Jay Z mentions the brand in the 2013 hit Somewhere in America.
In Hollywood, too, the message was clear. When the producers of Minority Report cast their vision for the car of the future, what other automobile brand could capture the enigmatic beauty and engineering excellence they craved? The allure, years later, has deepened, with the breadth of Lexus appeal mapped out in cameos across series ranging from Modern Family to Breaking Bad.
But it’s not just in Hollywood where Lexus has made an impression. British television shows ranging from Silent Witness to the recent Last Tango in Halifax have embraced a brand that was once regarded with suspicion. John Brooks, senior administrator of Lexus’s UK press fleet, noted: “Lexus is one of the most seen luxury brands on prime-time terrestrial television.”
4. Lexus now operates in more than 90 countries on six continents
These include the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Hong Kong, South Africa, New Zealand, Taiwan, Russia and South Korea.
5. Although Lexus was born in Japan, the brand was only launched in its home market in 2005
Lexus opened for business at 142 dealerships across Japan on the same day in August 2005. During the first ten days of the launch, dealers received more than 250,000 visitors.
6. Lexus was the first manufacturer to enter a production hybrid vehicle at the Nürburgring 24 hours race
Lexus became the first car manufacturer to compete in a major endurance race with a full hybrid car. This notoriety began with the Lexus RX 400h – not the most traditional of vehicles to take part in the Nürburgring 24-hour race but its success proved that hybrid technology was a viable alternative to diesel.
The car was run by NPO MOTO-CP, who had previously raced Prius hybrids in Japan. The car ran in the S1 Alternative Fuels class mainly against diesels. There was full factory support for the effort, headed up by Hiorkazu Koga, General Manager of the Lexus Vehical Performance Development Division.
Koga explained the rationale about the project. “Interest in diesel vehicles is high in Europe and it is thought that the performance of hybrid vehicles is not so good. We wanted to assess the Lexus RX 400h’s endurance and show the compatibility between driving performance and fuel efficiency by competing in the Nurburgring race.”
7. In pursuit of perfection
During the development of the original LS, one team member was assigned to ensure that the feel of each and every button and switch was perfect. He carried around three sets of fake nails to ensure buttons were suitable for all types of customer.