If you know even a little about the auto industry, as soon as you hear the word “Lexus” you think of luxury. The low, spacious saloons which the brand is known for have attracted countless drivers over the years, and today their reputation is still going strong. Despite the prominence of this luxury brand, there are a lot of things which most auto enthusiasts don’t know about it. Here are some of the things you may not have known about Lexus.
One thing that a lot of people are surprised to learn about Lexus is that the Japanese brand made their debut in Germany. There had been a buzz about Toyota’s new luxury line for some time before, but the very first Lexus – the LS400, was unveiled in Cologne in 1989. This was a clear message to all the brand’s European competitors that Lexus intended to have its share of the luxury market. It was made all the more potent by Lexus choosing Germany, the spiritual home of the auto industry, rather than Japan to unveil the car. Some reporters scoffed at the new badge, and said that they’d never unsettle the hold Audi and Mercedes had on the luxury niche. How wrong those people were! It’s also a surprising and little-known fact that Lexus wasn’t released in its own back yard until more than a decade later! Yes, despite the idea of Lexus being born in Japan, the country didn’t actually see any of their models on their roads until 2005. After a considerable build-up of hype, Lexus was finally released in 142 Japanese dealerships in August 2005, all on the same day! During the first ten days of this launch, some dealers had more than 250,000 interested visitors.
One part of Lexus’s rich history that a lot of auto enthusiasts have no idea about is the Calty Arts Project. This came at a time when Lexus was setting out plans for its very first luxury coupe – the SC400. Katushi Nosho was asked to come up with a fresh concept or this new car, and his approach to this task was unorthodox to say the least. As the vice president of Calty Design Research Studio, Nosho was fairly used to pushing his designers to forget their rules and conventions, and think outside the box. Instead of the measured, mathematical sketches and scale models the designers usually came up with, Nosho wanted the team to come up with something using an artistic and hands-on approach. This kind of unconventional thinking soon became known as the Calty Arts Project. The program was completely unofficial, but has had an undeniably significant impact on the aesthetic style we associate with Lexus. The project included an extra studio where a select group were able to study classical art and sculpture. A lot of people met the program with scepticism, simply because no other major designers were doing anything similar. However, this initial step inspired some truly legendary experiments in automobile design. Today, the great artistic achievements that came out of it are now filling dealerships like Currie Motors.
You can’t have a post on Lexus without mentioning their intimate link with pop culture. As with a lot of luxurious cars, the world of hip-hop has often given little nods and references towards Lexus. Legendary rapper Ice Cube runs a check on a Lexus Coupe in the 1992 crime thriller Trespass, and R. Kelly name-drops the Lexus SC in his song Ignition (2003). Ten years later, another prominent rapper, Jay Z, gives a nod to the brand in his 2013 song Somewhere in America. The music world isn’t the only entertainment industry where Lexus keeps popping up. when the director of Minority Report needed a car from the future, Lexus, unsurprisingly, got the job of designing the trim, and got to have their badge in the movie! Lexus has also made numerous cameos in various TV series, such as Modern Family and The Sopranos.
Finally, Lexus was the first brand ever to enter a hybrid vehicle at the Nürburgring 24-hour race. This massive endurance race attracted brands and models of all sorts, but the most shocking entry was Lexus’s RX400h. Although there was probably a lot of sniggering when the Lexus team rocked up with a car that ran partially on electricity, it performed surprisingly well, and proved to many auto industry higher-ups that hybrid technology was a feasible alternative to petrol or diesel. Hirokazu Koga said himself that the aim was to change European preconceptions about hybrid cars, and the company certainly succeeded!
** This is a collaborative post