Question is: how?
Lexus is sort of at a turning point in its lifetime. It has the design skills, technology, and exemplary customer service of a luxury brand, but it’s still missing something its German rivals have mastered: envy. 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 envy you," incoming Lexus chief branding officer Tokuo Fukuichi told Automotive News. "We haven’t fully achieved that compared with the German three."
For lack of a better or different phrasing, let’s call this "Lexus envy," and Toyota’s luxury division is now engaging in an all-out effort to create this. How so? Remember the carbon-fiber rich Sport Yacht concept? It’s a Lexus yacht powered by a pair of 5.0-liter V8s, each producing 440 hp. If you recall, this is the same engine powering the RC F coupe and GS F sedan. Consider the yacht as sort of an experiment to get wealthy people’s attention. On dry pavement, Lexus is heavily pushing its new LS sedan and LC grand tourer, the latter considered to be the brand’s new halo model in place of the gone but sorely missed LFA.
In his new role as chief branding officer, Fukuichi has been given a lot of freedom from CEO Akio Toyoda to get things done. It also makes sense that Fukuichi will continue his role as Lexus’ head of advanced design. Basically, he needs to permanently shed the image of Lexus being nothing more than premium Toyotas. Lexus ownership needs to become a lifestyle, which is exactly what Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have created. It remains to be seen if Lexus can accomplish its goal, but one thing is for certain: the era of rebadged Toyotas serving as a Lexus is coming to an end.