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Lexus (Japanese:レクサス) is a brand name of the Toyota Motor Corporation for its line of luxury vehicles. Lexus-branded vehicles are sold in North America, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Latin America, Asia and Oceania; in the United States, Lexus is the highest-selling brand of luxury cars. Until 2005, Lexus vehicles were sold under the Toyota marque in Japan until its introduction there that year.
The Lexus Brand
Lexus was inspired by the success of the Toyota Supra sports car and the luxury Toyota Cressida models. Both the Supra and Cressida were rear wheel drive cars with a powerful 7M-GE/7M-GTE engine. The first Lexus-badged models, the V-8 powered LS 400 and the smaller, Toyota Camry-based ES 250, appeared in 1989.
The Lexus marque was launched in the United States in 1989, prompted by the successful launch of the Acura marque three years prior. Lexus launched later in Great Britain, Canada and Australia, in 1990.
An image consulting firm presented a list of 219 names, from which Vectre, Verone, Chaparel, Calibre and Alexis were top candidates. While Alexis quickly became the front runner (possibly due to the association with the Alexis Carrington character on the popular 1980s primetime drama Dynasty) and later morphed to Lexus, the name has been attributed to the combination of the words "luxury" and "elegance." According to Toyota, however, the name had no meaning and was just meant to be pleasing and easy to remember. Just prior to the release of the first vehicles, the database service LexisNexis obtained a temporary injunction forbidding the name Lexus from being used as they stated it might cause confusion. Upon reflection, the court lifted the injunction, deciding that there was a low likelihood of confusion between the two products.
Another theory has surfaced, claiming that the Lexus name was given to the project by Toyota in the mid-80s, as an acronym for Luxury EXport United States.
Hunter Communications, the agency who designed the "L" logo and also presented the name to Toyota management, says Lexus was born of the "LE" on the automaker's luxury edition vehicles, which created the acronym "Luxury Edition for the United States" or "LEUS" with the "x" from "luxury" added to form "LEXUS".
The marque was finally introduced to the Japanese market on July 26, 2005. The compact IS 250\IS 350, convertible SC 430, and midsize GS 350/GS 430 will all be available in Japan in the 2006 model year.
In some countries, like Malaysia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the UK, where there is a market in grey imports of Japanese cars, some equivalent Toyota models have been retro-fitted with Lexus badges, although they still differ slightly from officially imported Lexus models, especially in specification and equipment levels.
Lexus directly competes with such luxury brands as the Europe's Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volvo, the American Cadillac and Lincoln, and Japanese peers Acura, which launched three years before, and Infiniti which started later in the same year.
The flagship LS 400, known as the Toyota Celsior in the Japanese domestic market, had a unique design, sharing no major elements with previous Toyota vehicles, with a new 4.0 L V8 engine. It was widely praised for its silence, well-appointed interior, fine engine performance, outstanding build quality, and value. (In some markets, it was priced against mid-sized Mercedes-Benz and BMW models, while offering size, performance, and quality comparable to their full-size cars). It was generally regarded as a major shock to the European marques, but was criticized by automobile columnists for anonymous styling and a suspension regarded as too compromising of handling for ride comfort. Nonetheless, the LS 400 won several major motoring awards when released.
These attributes have been maintained in subsequent versions of the LS, including the LS 430, and the range has been expanded with other models (the Toyota Windom-based ES 330, the small, sporty, rear-drive IS 200 and IS 300 (based on the Japanese Domestic Market Toyota Altezza), the Toyota Land Cruiser-based LX 470 SUV, and the GS models, based on the Toyota Aristo). The world's second mass-production hybrid SUV was a Lexus (After the Ford Escape SUV in summer 2004). The SC 300/400 (based on Japanese Domestic Market Toyota Soarer) was Lexus' first coupe that made its way to the United States. Subsequently the second generation SC 430 became the first convertible ever to be offered by the company. In terms of volume, Lexus has been the number one selling luxury nameplate in the United States for the past 5 years.
Many Lexus vehicles are manufactured in the Tahara, Japan plant, a highly sophisticated, computerized manufacturing plant. The North American-market RX 350 (since the 2004 model year) is produced in the city of Cambridge, in Ontario, Canada, and is the first Lexus plant located outside of Japan.
Lexus has become known for efforts to project a luxury image even with service provided after the sale. The waiting areas in the service departments are complete with such amenities as a refreshment bar, business center that is soundproofed and stocked with computers and a fax machine, and the service bay is lined with large picture windows to allow the customers to watch the repairs.
In 2005, Lexus came first in the Top Gear Survey, "the UK's biggest independent car satisfaction survey" with over 76,000 respondants.
Lexus has been participating in endurance racing, in particular the 24 Hours of Daytona. In 2005 Lexus was runners-up and in 2006 it won the championship. Although Toyota has won this prestigious race in the past it was the first time that its luxury arm emerged as the winner. Lexus is also going to participate in 12 Hours of Sebring which now form a part of American Le Mans. There has been speculation of a Lexus F1 operation in the near future, in line with its expansion into the luxury car markets, and increasing competition with BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Lexus may enter for the 2007 Formula 1 season as an engine supplier to the WilliamsF1 team, using Toyota engines rebadged as Lexus, but these rumors are purely speculative.
After the release of the Lexus brand on the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) in 2005, four SC 430 coupes were entered in the SuperGT series in the GT500 class. In the first race of the 2006 series, an SC 430 took the chequered flag.
- In the United States, Lexus Financial Savings Bank, in conjunction with US Bank, has launched a Lexus Pursuits Visa Card.
- Lexus was requested by Steven Spielberg, an ardent fan of Lexus and himself an owner of LX 470, to design a vehicle which would fit the requirements of year 2054 for his movie Minority Report. Lexus came up with an advanced vehicle which would run on fuel cells and have many advanced safety features including a crash-proof structure. (Lexus' cinematic concept car also appears in The Island, though it's colored blue, not red).
- The ES series is roughly based on the US Toyota Camry.
- The IS (Toyota Altezza in Japan) series is roughly based on the Toyota Cressida luxury sedan, which was discontinued in 1992 in the US partially because of dropping sales due to the launch and success of the Lexus brand.
- After being discontinued in 1992, the X chassis code for Cressidas was still in use in Japan under the Mark II, Chaser, and Cresta names until the early 2000s.
- After falling on hard times, fictional television/radio personality Alan Partridge drove a Lexus, believing it to be a luxury car.
Future of Lexus
Although Lexus has had phenomenal success in the US since 1991-1992 — within 3 years of its introduction in 1989 — it has been struggling outside North America, including its home country, Japan, where the Lexus brand started marketing in 2005 and is still waiting for the arrival of the LS series due later this year, and in particular Europe. Automotive analysts have pointed out that Lexus has been so successful in North America because the wide consumer base of Toyota and in particular the baby boomers wanted something more luxurious as they were becoming older and their surplus incomes were allowing them to migrate to brands such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The huge success of Lexus was in part due to the fact that its higher levels of quality and cut-rate prices enabled it to retain those migrating customers and keep them "in the family."
However, this also had negative repurcussions as Lexus gradually cemented an image of cut-rate brand, which would offer similarly equipped cars at tens of thousands of dollars less than its primary competitors, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The former chief of BMW, Eberhard von Kuenhiem predicted that this strategy would work to some extent in US, but not in Europe, where the words premium and luxury do not go well with cut-rate pricing. Some automotive experts believe that Lexus' failure to woo European customers and its very slow incremental increase in European arena is because of the serious damage Lexus has done to its brand image. This has led some automotive thinkers to believe that unless Lexus prices its products head-to-head with the European premium brands and emphasizes its superior quality, reliability and engineering, it will not be able to succeed globally.
- IS - compact RWD/AWD
- IS 200/IS 300
- 2006 IS 250/IS250 AWD/IS 350/IS 220d
- ES - midsize FWD
- ES 250/ES 300/ES 330
- GS - midsize RWD/AWD
- LS - full-size RWD
- 1989 LS 400
- 2001 LS 430
- 2006/7 LS 600hL (Hybrid)
- SC - coupe/coupe convertible RWD
- 1992 SC 300/SC 400
- 2002 SC 430
- RX - crossover SUV
- GX - midsize SUV
- GX 470
- LX - large SUV
- LX 450/LX 470
- JX - large SUV
- 2007 JX 470
- LF-C - concept car
- LF-A - concept car
- lexus.com/ Lexus corporate webpage
- lexus-europe.com/ Lexus Europe
- Team Lexus webpage Official webpage of Team Lexus, a factory-backed team competing in the Grand American Cup road racing series.
- Planet Lexus - Pictures and information regarding every Lexus model ever made
- Car Guys on plural of Lexus
- ClubLexus - Lexus Enthusiast Website
- lexus.com/magazine/ Lexus Magazine Website
- lexus.co.uk/ Lexus UK Website