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.
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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.