Lexus is the premier, luxury division within Toyota. It was born out of an idea by then-CEO Eiji Toyoda who planned to compete on the world stage to produce the highest quality of prestige cars. The initial project was kept top secret and code named F1, the ‘Flagship One’ project.
The impetus came from the Supra sports cars and the quality range of Cressida cars. The F1 was to have the spritely performance of the Supra models and the understated elegance of the vintage Cressida range. Whereas the Cressida was purely marketed for the Japanese market, the F1 was to be an international product.
There was much thought put into the style, look, and performance of the car, with Toyota designers spending time during 1985 living amongst the wealthy in California and observing their tastes and way of life. With rivals in the market – Honda releaed the Acura range, Nissan set up its Infiniti models, and Mazda marketed its luxurious Amati vehicles – it was time for Toyota to unleash the Lexus. The final result was the LS 400.
The Lexus range was conceived as both elegant vehicles but also as incredibly functional cars too. Test models were subjected to rigorous experiments and extreme weather conditions so the car’s quality would stand the pace anywhere in the world. Whether customers used the car in the burning heat of the Saudi desert or the rough terrain of the Australian outback, it had to perform well. It had to survive freezing temperatures in Canada and torrential rain of Europe.
When the LS 400 was launched in 1989, it was well received by the world’s automotive press. When Lexus issued a recall a couple of months later to change wiring to the brake light, they securely planted their reputation for outstanding customer service. By 1990, the LS 400 was on offer around Europe, Canada, and here, and quickly saw the marque establish its name as being synonymous with quality and excellence.
During the 1990s, there were a number of new models released as well as additional body shapes for the LS 400. Lexus also competed in new sectors, creating models for the mid-size car class, 4x4s, and crossover cars. There were also facelifts and improvements to the earlier models too.
In the space of 10 years, Lexus had gone from newcomer to trend setter, and by 2003, the company recorded its 2 millionth sale. Toyota also altered the management structure, giving Lexus more autonomy with its own design, training, engineering, and production sites. They also started to expand into emerging markets like China and Russia for the first time, as well as releasing the marque in its homeland, Japan.
Lately, Lexus have been adding extra performance to certain models to give them a little extra punch, while performance level trim and accessories are more common as well. The start of the recession in 2008 was also a time when Lexus started developing hybrid versions of their cars, the first being the HS 250h.
The early cars from Lexus were the entry-level ES 250 sedan and the premier LS 400. These were renowned for their quality built cabins, excellent performing engines, and tranquil, comfortable ride. The additional models that appeared at the start of the 1990s included the SC 300 and SC 400 coupes and the sumptuously fitted out GS 300 sedan. As the millennium drew to an end, the company also added a range of 4x4s to the stable with the LX450, LX470, and RX 300 models.
The hybrids that evolved during the mid-2000s were both innovative and a fashionable response to environmental concerns and financial worries. Cars like the RX 400h and the GS 450h demonstrated that you could have a totally luxurious car and still be concerned about the planet. The pinnacle of the Lexus range came about when they announced the arrival of their super sports car, the LFA, a technological thoroughbred amongst cars.
Any company attempting to produce cars for the luxury market is always going to find themselves up against the German might of Mercedes Benz, Audi, and BMW. In addition, the style of the Italians is something to content with, as is the engineering genius that goes into the Japanese cars.
These were the rivals Toyota had when they first decided to establish the Lexus range. With the arrival of the other Japanese manufacturers premier lines, they have plenty with which to be compared. Where Lexus has made their mark is with high-quality design and build, and by providing first-rate service. The cars’ performance levels are good too. All of this is allied to the initial desire to produce prestigious vehicles, which the company certainly succeeded at doing.