Toyota’s luxury division, Lexus, is looking to distance itself from its parent brand beginning with the new Lexus GS, Automotive News reports.
The GS has enjoyed a warm reception from buyers with Lexus pushing a total of 4,900 models off the lot within just two months of its introduction, and surpassing all sales expectations for the year in the process.
Lexus executives attribute strong sales to an overhauled effort by the luxury marquee to distance itself from parent company Toyota in order to create a stronger brand identity. This includes, among other things, a host of aggressive advertising campaigns such as the company’s first Super Bowl commercial earlier this year and a partnership with Sports Illustrated where Lexus created a racetrack based on the contours of SI model Tori Praver’s body, which we can only imagine was a painstaking and grueling endeavor for all involved.
Lexus has even gone so far as to revamp and streamline the whole design and decision-making process for new vehicles. To help promote a decentralized approach to both brands, employees at Toyota’s headquarters were separated from one another — resulting in the development of the GS’s hourglass-like spindle grill as a central design focus for upcoming Lexus models.
Only recently was Lexus knocked off as number one luxury brand in the U.S., a fact Lexus blames on poor brand imaging and customer loyalty. While the Lexus nameplate has traditionally experienced strong sales in the luxury segment, figures show as many as 30-percent of Lexus owners tend to jump ship and make camp with some of Lexus’ main competitors: BMW and Mercedes. This difficulty in retaining customers Lexus believes is in part due to consumers being less interested in owning a particular vehicle as they are in belonging to a brand and image.
“To conquer BMW and Mercedes drivers, we can’t just be looked at as an upgraded version of Toyota,” said Kiyotaka Ise, head of Lexus. “We want our brand to be chosen for its character and handling.”
That “character” has translated into a concentrated push on Lexus’ part to create a brand – on top of vehicles – that consumers want to belong to. It isn’t enough for Lexus to be considered reliable or a rebadged top-shelf Toyota. And on top of non-traditional ad campaigns, a huge portion of delivering that new and distinct image has already begun with the GS and its more aggressive design.
Whether the Japanese automaker will be successful in mounting a new offensive and reclaiming its luxury crown remains to be seen. While it may have been enough for Lexus to provide customers with upscale versions of Toyotas in the past, that formula has ceased to work. But if Lexus can move beyond the languid attempts we have grown accustomed to and provide consumers with enough distinction, reliability and flair with future models, we see no reason why it can’t soar to previous heights.