History of Lexus
Are you a fan of Lexus vehicles? If so, do you know the brand’s history? It’s an interesting story. Lexus automobiles first arrived on the United States market in 1989, representing the Japanese Toyota Motor’s luxury vehicle brand. Lexus was available for purchase in 17 countries after one year of production. Today, that number exceeds 90 countries, a credit to the brand’s success.
There’s so much more to the history of Lexus, so we want to share it with you here. Read below as our team at Eskridge Lexus in the Oklahoma City area discusses how the idea of Lexus came about, the design process, and how Lexus got its name.
Toyota Chairman Challenges Company
In 1983, Toyota Chairman Eiji Toyoda issued a straightforward but in no way simple challenge. Toyoda tasked his company with creating the world’s best car. Toyota created a top-secret task force dubbed the F1 project to meet this challenge. The F1 team aimed to develop a premium flagship sedan to expand its product line. And Toyota wanted a full-size sedan that would compete internationally.
The F1 project came on the heels of the successful Toyota Supra sports car and the premium Toyota Cressida. Both vehicles had rear-drive platforms with an inline six-cylinder engine powering them. Toyota only had one V-8 production vehicle at the time, the Toyota Crown. Although the Crown was a premium sedan, it lacked the fit and finish the F1 project sought. So Toyota began developing a new V-8 engine.
The Mid-80s Luxury Revolution
As the 80s roared on, other manufacturers were entering the luxury market. Honda launched its Acura brand, Nissan introduced INFINITI, and Mazda offered its new 929 sedans. Only Mazda failed to connect.
Toyota spared no expense in researching its target market. Top researchers spent time in the U.S. in 1985, some even renting a home in Laguna Beach, California, to observe the upper-class lifestyle. Simultaneously, engineers tested prototypes everywhere, including on U.S. highways and the German Autobahn.
Toyota’s market research teams determined it needed a separate brand with sales channels to handle the new F1 line. So they began planning earnestly to develop a dealership network in the U.S.
The Lexus Brand Development
Toyota relied on its advertising partner, Saatchi & Saatchi, to help build a brand. The agency created a specialized unit called Team One to handle marketing. Team One contracted image consultants Lippincott & Margulies to create a name. The consulting firm offered over 200 potential names. Interestingly, Lexus wasn’t among them.
After winnowing the list to five, options included Vectre, Verone, Alexis, Calibre, and Chaparel. Alexis became the front-runner, but possible identity issues raised concerns. Alexis was a popular character on the hit television show “Dynasty” at the time. Team One had concerns the name would lead to people thinking of humans rather than automobiles. In the end, the team dropped the “A” and changed the “i” to a “u,” and the name Lexus was born.
Some etymology enthusiasts believe Lexus was the result of combining the words “luxury” and “elegance.” Others claim it stands for “luxury exports to the U.S.” However, interviews with Team One members revealed it had nothing to do with either. Instead, they claim it simply denotes a technological and luxurious image.
In another interesting twist, a high-priced advertising agency didn’t create the brand’s original slogan, “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection.” Instead, Team One representatives noticed the obsessive attention to detail when visiting Lexus designers in Japan. Even the logo, a stylized “L” within an oval, used a precise mathematical calculation.
Lexus Launches in 1989
It took six years to get from a company challenge to the dealership sales floor, but after successful teaser ads at auto shows in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, F1’s time had finally come. The long-awaited arrival of Lexus involved 24 engineering teams, 1,400 engineers, 2,300 technicians, 220 support workers, and 60 designers.
Toyota estimates it tested around 450 prototypes and spent over $1 billion on the F1 project. The result was the 1989 Lexus LS 400, a luxury sedan that would turn heads everywhere. The LS 400 debuted to universal acclaim at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show in January 1989. By September, the LS 400 was on sale nationwide at over 80 Lexus dealerships. Lexus also introduced its ES 250 sedan based on the Toyota Camry underpinnings but with all the luxury features of its big brother, the LS 400.
The LS 400 shared no similarities with its Toyota heritage, offering a unique and luxurious style. With a 4.0-liter V-8 engine powering it, critics praised the Lexus LS 400 for its luxury appointments, quiet cabin, build quality, and performance. But some derided the LS 400 because its suspension offering ride quality resulted in poor handling.
Competing against rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW, the LS 400 stood tall. Coming in at nearly half the price of its competitors, the LS 400 quickly earned top honors from Car and Driver, Automobile, and Wheels magazines. As a result, the new kid on the block gained instant credibility and customer loyalty beyond its years.
Oddly, a voluntary recall in late 1989 helped establish Lexus’s credibility. Only two customer complaints existed out of over 8,000 LS 400 sedans sold. The recall involved defective wiring and overheating brake lights. With its voluntary recall, Lexus spared no expense, sending technicians to pick up, repair, and return vehicles to customers at no charge.
The most telling statistic is that the LS sedan remains the flagship sedan for Lexus in 2023. The ES sedan also continues to please drivers everywhere.
Explore the Lexus Lineup in Oklahoma City Today
Lexus now offers a complete lineup of sedans and SUVs with the luxury features you deserve. The brand offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid options and traditional gas powertrain models. If you’re ready to elevate your Oklahoma City commute with a premium vehicle at a competitive price, we invite you to shop our virtual inventory. You can visit our dealership on West Memorial Road at your convenience for personal demonstrations. One of our new-car specialists will review your needs and let you take your preferred vehicle for a test drive.