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Lexus says the Japanese brand’s lack of a rich design heritage is a huge advantage over its German rivals that are generally bound by traditional values.

Speaking to CarAdvice in Melbourne yesterday, Lexus’ Californian-based senior creative designer, Edward Lee, a former Audi designer who joined Lexus in 2007, said design flexibility is one of Lexus’ strong points, which the company has only recently began to exploit with new models such as the GS and concept cars like the LF-LC and LF-CC.

“Coming from a brand (Audi) that had that strong history of design and background, my first reaction (at Lexus) was, I wish there was more structure, but as time went by and as we started to develop the Lexus design together and moved it towards more emotional and expressive design, I realised this (freedom) was a true advantage”

While manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz adhere to and accommodate over 125 years of design tradition, with BMW and Audi not so far beyond, Lexus is taking full advantage of its relatively young 22 years in the business by redefining itself.

“We can be more explorative, more daring, find the right answers that define our history. We can be more flexible.”

When asked why Lexus had in the past stuck to a more conservative and somewhat Japanese-inspired design language while the likes of BMW were daring enough to create cars such as the bold X6 coupe-like SUV, Mr Lee said that times are changing and that Lexus is now focused on customers that are really interested in what Lexus has to say about its cars.

“We said in the past that maybe we weren’t taking as many chances but right now Lexus is in the era of taking this movement towards more definite design tastes. We are hungry for innovation and we are hungry for making a statement of passionate design.”

Lee was the lead exterior designer of the Lexus LF-LC, which was one of the highlights of last month’s Sydney Motorshow and generated massive crowds at the Paris Motor Show in September.

Lee is adamant that Lexus must stay with of the ever-changing customer tastes in car design. Stressing that customers’ preference in car designs has changed over the last few years.

“I can say maybe a couple of years ago, customers desired what their neighbours would buy, but now customers are becoming more confident in the choices they are making and the taste that they have, they are really going to look out for products that cater to their taste. That’s the same direction that Lexus is moving in.”

Despite the emphasis on new and innovative design processes taking place at Lexus, Mr Lee admitted that he has a love for further perfecting an existing design.

“For me, because of my background starting from a company like Audi with that history, I love making that sort of same designs over and over again and perfecting what has already been perfected.”

Comparing the design language and mission of a brand like Audi to Lexus, Mr Lee said the difference is considerable.

“Audi design is looking for something that is new two percent of the time and 98 percent of the time it’s about brand identity and refinement where as Lexus is the complete opposite of that. We are looking for something new, fresh new ideas and we don’t try to hammer it so much to the point where we are losing the emotional aspect of our design.”

Mr Lee was in Melbourne to talk to students at RMIT’s automotive design school and help launch Lexus Australia’s design scholarship.

  • Dave W

    Nice job Mr Lee… Now get rid of that spindle grille.

    • $29896495

      yeah hate the grills they are a turn of. and some of the excesses. 

    • KiaK9

      he’s korean, he’ll leave that grille for his country’s benefit…

      • $29896495

        That would explain the lack of restrain with the grill and a few other things.

  • Luke Brinsmead

    I want an LF-LC now, it’s sooooo sexy!

  • super_hans

    I think the lexus IS models have always been a standout, the current IS250 has aged incredibly well, better than its competitors. If I were to buy a second hand luxury sedan that would be the pick, good looks and solid reliability. The rest of the range looks a bit awkward though

  • Gram

    Ok then, please show us that ” huge advantage” Mr Lee.
    Don’t keep it a secret like you have so far all these 22 yrs.

    • Dave W

       Err… mate… He only joined Lexus 5 years ago. The current IS has been around for 7 years. Wait until we see the new IS next year, then we find out if he actually knows what he’s talking about.

      • Jax

         I think he meant Lexus has been designing for 22 yrs…but they haven’t shown that huge advantage at all.
        Is this an admission by Lexus that they’ve been designing bland cars all these years?…

        • Simon

          But it was Edward Lee who was speaking on behalf of Lexus, as Dave W said who had been there 5 year….. who described the advantage of Lexus having the freedom …. looking forward to his designs…

        • Jaws

          No, I don’t see it as an admission of that sort at all. I think you might be projecting a bit there. If anything, it can only be interpreted as Mr Lee commenting on the design freedom that is now available to him, compared to his time at Audi. He’s not talking about any Lexus models that were designed before he joined the company.

          • Carmaker1

            Yep, I believe him as Lexus unlike Audi even credits their designers on the patent applications. On Audi design patents, they don’t even list who is responsible for it.

        • Carmaker1

          Lexus hasn’t been designing for two years, more like 27. Their first design was finished in May 1987.

  • F1orce

    Nice read. It will be interesting to see what Lexus will do in the upcoming years.

    The blue LF-LC was at Sydney an I can say that was one incredible design.

    Such bold design, yet still maintains that typical Lexus refinement and understatement.

    • 5reasonreviews.com

      Yep it will be interesting to see what they build.

      I am also very interested to see how Infiniti go in this market as well

  • Damonculus

    Don’t know why everyone goes on about Lexus being bland, I think BMW’s are the blandest cars on the market, they all look the same, but they never seem to cop grief for it. I’d take a Lexus anyday. I think the new front looks nice.

  • KiaK9

    it’s interesting to see a korean designer designing for audi then a jap brand!

    • $29896495

      Well actually he’s not designing for Audi. Wonder what he did when he was there, the bodies are to conservative, maybe he did the wheels.

      • Logan

        I thought the implication was clear that he was a former designer for Audi.

        • $29896495

          Maybe you mean intent? I did go onto comment in the past tense. So I was aware that he HAD designed for Audi, and that he wasn’t designing now. Just wondered what he worked on.

          • Logan

            No, I meant implication of the sentence. The commenter’s intent was obvious, so I didn’t see any need to bring it up.

          • KiaK9

            Huwtm…logan and i mean…i said “it’s interesting to see a korean designer designing for audi, THEN a jap brand (now)!”

          • $29896495

            Yeah OK, fair enough, I find it interesting as well

    • Luke Brinsmead

      A lot more money, and glamour, is involved than designing for say Hyundai or Kia.

      • Dave W

        What are you talking about? If I already have an impressive resume designing cars for the likes of BMW, Benz, Audi, etc. I’d be happy if Hyundai or Kia offer me more money and more creative freedom over the design of their cars.

        Why do you think Peter Schreyer and Chris Chapman took the job at Kia and Hyundai respectively? The fact that they managed to lift the image of both brands would just add to their credibility as designers rather than detract.

        • KiaK9

          yeap, designers love to be free and start from a blank canvas, i wouldn’t go to bmw etc either…they’ll give you a piece of paper with the grill pre-drawn…”now add headlights to that” “OH WE CAN’T PASS THAT NOT OUR TRADITION…”

  • R10RRK

    Sounds like the Japanese car maker has been reading my posts that I have been drumming about German design !

    • Mitch

      Yes, all credit where credit’s due ! Lexus read your comments and actually wanted to hire you as their lead designer, but for whatever reason they had to settle for the next best thing – a designer who actually had experience in German design !

  • Nada

    See Predator, Copy Predator.