More specifically, the front spindle grille.
It's been around five years since Lexus took a huge design chance when it debuted its front spindle grille and various other more radical styling elements. The luxury Japanese automaker, who literally defined conservative, safe styling, changed its image overnight. Not surprisingly, not everyone was exactly thrilled, mainly longtime customers. Or, in other words, older people. What did they have to say? We brought this subject up during our conversation with Jeff Bracken, Lexus group vice president and general manager at Detroit last week.
"I'll be very transparent. It's our signature grille. Some of our models have a more expressive signature grille than others. The folks that look at it as somewhat polarizing would be, for the most part, the folks that have been with us since the beginning. In fact I'll take phone calls from some of these owners and will literally spend 45 minutes to an hour on the phone with me just expressing how disappointed they are," Bracken said. And this can kind of present a problem because, on the one hand, you don't want to abandon your most loyal customers, but at the same time it's vital for long-term survival to bring in younger buyers. So, what does Bracken tell the former on the phone?
"I gives me an opportunity to explain why we're going down this path. I understand your concern. It's a very purposeful and strategic move on our part. If we lose some of our tradition owners it's a unsettling for us but won't preclude us from moving down this path. We hope to gain more (customers) than we lose. We don't want to lose anybody, but…" The bottom line for Lexus was survival and the older, more traditional styling simply wouldn't allow for that. "Our (previous) image had been that of a producer of high-quality luxury vehicles for years. But that wasn't enough to keep us relevant. It was important that we not only produced high-quality luxury vehicles but also that had to be edgy in terms of styling and cutting-edge technology."
Given that, Bracken confirmed the brand's new lineup of F and F Sport models have brought in younger buyers. "If our average was 60, then we have to bring that down." So, sorry older disgruntled buyers. Please stay with Lexus, by all means, but the brand will continue to do what it needs to do for its long-term benefit.