It’s one thing to be dependable; Lexus has got that down pat. It’s another to be exciting. That’s what the brand has been working on — hard.
They will be going further than ever to excite the senses, not just reassure the left brain. It’s introducing a series of new models including what it says is the best version ever of its flagship LS sedan, and a new LC sports coupe. These models will add to the performance tracks laid by Lexus over the last few years with models such as the RC F sport coupe and “F” versions of a variety of its other nameplates.
So important is this pivoting to the brand that Lexus paid handsomely for a commercial during the last Super Bowl speaking to these rising attributes even though neither the new LS nor the LC will be available just yet. They just unveiled a full-hybrid version of the new LS platform at the Geneva Motor Show.
It is getting back into motorsports marketing with the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
“When I see people [commenting] about Lexus now, they’re saying things like it’s cool and sexy,” Brian Bolain general manager of Lexus marketing, told me. “We didn’t hear that even two years ago. So it’s a moment in time for Lexus when the product is shifting and the brand is taking on a new, contemporary edge.”
As initial payback, Bolain said, “We hit some all-time highs in 2016 with our younger audience when it came to attributes like styling, ‘cool and progressive,’ and ‘trend-setting.’ That’s encouraging.”
Yet there is some measure of logical resistance to Lexus’s new approach. For one thing, the highest brand value of Lexus is its dependability; the brand once again topped the long-term reliability charts, tying with Porsche, as the top marque in the 2017 J.D. Power Dependability Study that was released last month.
Also, at the moment Lexus is hyping sedans — albeit sleek, sexy and powerful ones — when the U.S. luxury market seems to have flopped inalterably to crossovers and SUVs.
Lexus illustrates the trend: Its car sales last year were down by 20 percent compared with 2015. But its SUV sales were up by nearly 13 percent, in toto keeping it’s sales loss to just 4 percent for 2016 in a toughening luxury market. Bolain said that utility models accounted for only about 50 percent of it’s U.S. sales as recently as early 2016, and now they are about 65 percent — perhaps on their way, he said, to as much as 70 percent.