Lexus Reveals the LC 500 at the North American International Auto Show

Lexus Reveals the LC 500 at the North American International Auto Show

Akio Toyoda, the chief branding officer and master driver for Lexus talks about the LC 500 during a press conference about the all-new coupe at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA News Wire)
Akio Toyoda, the chief branding officer and master driver for Lexus, talks about the LC 500 during a press conference about the all-new coupe at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA News Wire)

By Freddie Allen
NNPA News Wire Senior Correspondent

DETROIT, Mich., — Akio Toyoda, the chief branding officer and master driver for Lexus, said that he takes a hands-on role in designing the company’s cars, including the all-new Lexus LC 500 coupe recently unveiled at the 2016 North American International Auto Show.

The grandson of Toyota Motor’s founder Kiichiro Toyoda, the younger Toyoda steers the company and credited audience members for helping to bring critical change to the luxury auto brand.

During the press conference to reveal the Lexus LC 500, Toyoda shared intimate details of a meeting with industry insiders in Pebble Beach Calif., four years ago that sparked the shakeup.

Some were openly critical of the luxury brand at the meeting, calling it “boring to drive” and saying that Lexus was “at a crossroads.”

After that candid meeting, Toyoda said that he decided to take direct responsibility for the brand and formed Lexus International, an independent company that would be more imaginative in design, engineering and marketing resources.

Toyoda said that the Lexus LC 500 shows the result of the combined passion of Toyota’s engineers and designers who worked together to bring the LC 500 to the market.

“This is a brave, new Lexus with a new commitment to amazing products and experiences,” said Toyoda. “We don’t want to make cars to simply fill a category. We want to make cars to fill people’s hearts.”

Toyoda was determined to make sure that Lexus became a more emotional brand and he also wanted to make sure “that the words ‘boring’ and ‘Lexus’ never showed up in the same sentence again,” he said at the press conference.

Toyoda said that the Lexus LC 500 shows the result of the combined passion of Toyota’s engineers and designers who worked together to bring the LC 500 to the market.

Tadao Mori, the chief designer of the LC 500 echoed that sentiment in a press release about the launch.

Mori said that, at an early stage, the designers collaborated with the engineers to understand their image for the LC 500’s driving dynamics, and they incorporated that knowledge into the design.

“For example, we gave serious consideration to where the driver’s eyes would focus, and designed the surface shape in that area to help support a driver’s mindset,” said Mori. “This project was one of the first times that designers were closely involved in the dynamic engineering development so we could understand the driving goals and support with the car’s design.”

According to the press release about the LC 500, the “flagship coupe will debut the 2017 Lexus Multimedia package that will feature updated, faster, more flexible software enabling future enhancements and a more inviting graphic user interface.”

Engineers from Pioneer, the Japanese electronics company, worked with LC 500 body and cabin designers to improve interior sound performance and a new premium Pioneer audio system will also come standard in the new coupe.

“The LC 500 has been an important product for Lexus and me personally,” said Toyoda in the press release. “A few years ago, we decided to guide the future of the brand with products that had more passion and distinction in the luxury market. This flagship luxury coupe’s proportions, stunning design and performance make a strong statement about our brand’s emotional direction and will grow the Lexus luxury appeal globally.”

Perry Watson, the chairman of the National Association of Minority Auto Dealers, pauses for a photo-op next to the Lexus LC 500 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA News Wire)
Perry Watson, the chairman of the National Association of Minority Auto Dealers, pauses for a photo-op next to the Lexus LC 500 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA News Wire)

Perry Watson, the chairman of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NAMAD), a non-profit group that represents ethnic minority automobile dealers in the United States, said that Toyoda is part of the new generation of younger, more connected leaders at the Japanese car company that are positioned to address the unique challenges facing automakers today.

“When you have a mass brand and a luxury brand, i.e. Toyota and Lexus, Honda and Acura, Nissan and Infiniti, Ford and Lincoln, Volkswagen and Audi, there is tension in the boardroom for resources,” said Watson. “So, imagine at 10,000 feet, you’re in a boardroom and the question is asked, ‘why would I invest money in a vehicle that does this, from a volume perspective, versus [investing] in something else.’”

But Toyoda was willing to take the bold, new step, Watson said, sending a jolt through the product cadence that created space for the LC 500.

Watson, who also owns a Lexus dealership, said that the days when Japanese automakers ignored the style and design of their cars, from an emotional standpoint, are long gone.

“The gauntlet has been thrown down,” said Watson. “The [LC 500] is more than just a design, it’s more than just a coupe. It sends a message that Lexus can build an exciting car.”