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2018 Detroit Motor Show: Lexus switches focus to lifestyle branding

By Daniel Gardner, 23 Jan 2018 Events

2018 Detroit Motor Show Lexus switches focus to lifestyle branding

Lexus broadens brand appeal through creative partnerships and its untold ‘story’

LEXUS is following the lead of other high-end luxury car makers and working hard to expand its brand into a broader lifestyle arena, to take the L-badge beyond being a company that merely sells vehicles in showrooms.

A recent project to create the company’s first boat – the 42-foot Sport Yacht – was among the first strategic moves into other lifestyle realms, but it will be followed by more.

The recent sponsorship of Yoshihide Muroya helped the ace pilot secure the 2017 Red Bull Air Race championship and a more recent venture will see a Lexus LC500 feature in the new Black Panther feature film.

“We support young and upcoming talent – creators, film-makers and young designers – because Lexus is also a young brand so we can grow together,” Lexus president Yoshihiro Sawa said to Wheels at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“That is based on our Lexus philosophy – creating better design, creating a better future, a better lifestyle. That is a way to create a better life together with people.”

The Japanese car maker has toiled for nearly 30 years to forge a reputation as a purveyor of respectable luxury cars but for the next chapter, it says it needs to tell a ‘story’ that customers can relate to.

“It is really important to create a story because a luxury lifestyle brand must have a background history otherwise people don’t appreciate it,” Sawa said. “It’s just a product.”

While other brands have long colourful histories of manufacturing and motorsport that extend back many decades, Lexus is a relative newcomer to the luxury automotive arena, but Sawa explained that there is still a story to tell despite its youth.

A series of photo and video diaries has been documenting the activities of Lexus’ expert craftsmen and the lengths they go to build a modern Lexus, revealing some of the magic previously unavailable to customers.

“We have a lot of professional craftsmen. They produce a lot of good things but we’ve built a car without any explanation. If we show something it’s going to be the story.”

Sawa explained that the most senior panel and paint quality assessors must make an origami paper sculpture with their least dominant hand each morning before work commences to maintain dexterity and sensitivity.

Elsewhere in the body section, the staff that monitor panel gaps have to pass a test each day in which they have to correctly measure a gap by touch alone. The inspectors must be able to feel the difference of about 0.2mm to make the grade.

“They do the testing every morning and they cannot work if they fail,” said Sawa.

The result, says Sawa, is a greater understanding and appreciation for the finished article and a customer that admires the product more than ever.

“If we show the customer, the customer says ‘wow my car was created in such a fantastic way’.”