In February of this year, Lexus - the Luxury arm of Japanese automotive giant Toyota - sold their 10 millionth vehicle. The luxury car maker is one of the crowning jewels of the Japanese economy and their milestone of 10 million vehicles is impressive for a business that only began trading 30 years ago. If you’re wondering, that’s an average of 333,000 vehicles a year. Or 913 luxury automobiles every single day.
But how have Lexus managed to manoeuvre themselves into pole position in the luxury car market? The story begins way back in the middle of the 1980s when the first bespoke luxury cars were produced.
Today, there are bespoke custom car options available from many carmakers, as well as bespoke truck body builders and bespoke producers of a whole variety of other vehicles, luxury and otherwise. But three decades ago, it was a different world.
Back in 1983, Toyota released the Century. The chairman at the time, Eiji Toyoda, was adamant that the new Toyota luxury vehicle should not just meet the high standards that had been set by Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Jaguar. The Century was a hit in Japan and there was no doubt that Toyota was now a major player in the luxury vehicle market there.
But the Century was not so much of a hit overseas. Toyota would need to think a little differently if they were to break the all-important export market. The result was the Toyota Camry.
The Camry was designed from the very beginning to appeal to the US market, and it was successful in this endeavour. At the time, Toyota was banking on the baby boomer generation entering their peak earning years; they said so publicly. They also proposed that this spending would mean the luxury car market would be the fastest growing sector of the market.
While consumers liked the Camry, the brand still exists today, and Toyota was more or less on the money with their prediction about boomer money giving the luxury car market a boost, consumers simply didn’t associate the Toyota brand with luxury; they would rather spend their money on Cadillacs and Mercedes. Toyota needed a new approach to turn consumers heads.
Lexus is Born
Years of intensive research under the F1 (Flagship 1) banner led to the Lexus LS 400 in 1989. Soon, Toyota was partnering with Saatchi & Saatchi, a prestigious advertising agency. Accordingly, the press ads were soon claiming that “it’s not a car, it’s an invention.”
10 years later, in 1999, they made their millionth US sale. By that time, they had expanded into a number of other markets. Today, Lexus vehicles are available in more than 70 countries worldwide. However, until 2005, Lexus vehicles were still sold under the Toyota brand in Japan. The domestic market, which has been on board with Toyota since the launch of the Century back in 83, has had no problem associating Toyota with luxury. Today, the Japanese are rightly very proud of the Toyota brand.
10 million cars is an unimaginably high number. When you consider that these are luxury vehicles pitched at the highest end of the market, it is even more impressive. Lexus dealerships are now fairly common throughout the UK, Plymouth being one of the many UK cities to host one. Hats off to Toyota for providing the ultimate roadmap for successfully breaking into international markets.