Lexus says its biggest challenge remains a lack of heritage compared to the 'big three' German luxury manufacturers, but it continues to focus on delivering a luxury brand and the associated experiences.
Stop us if that sounds familiar. Mercedes-Benz and BMW already do that, selling a lifestyle instead of a car, but Lexus believes its unique product – from styling to technology – as well as its focus on customer service will see it continue to grow globally.
What's more, it thinks European and Australian markets will prove the biggest challenges for the brand as it competes against its German rivals.
“We are aiming for the luxury lifestyle brand rather than luxury car brand,” Yoshihiro Sawa, international Lexus president, told media in Geneva.
“Because we don’t have a very strong history – we only have 30 years history – compared with other European luxury brands, we are very young.”
Sawa says trying to compete with the Germans on their terms is difficult for the Japanese brand. Instead, it wants to focus on delivering in areas it can outdo its rivals.
“In order to build up the brand image we have to do our own way which is different from the existing luxury OEMs.
"So, the first priority is providing very attractive and unique vehicles. However, not only good products but also the services and activities which is not only the car, but we are doing many kinds of related activities.
"We would like to provide specific emotion which would evoke a specific person, the person who wants to buy the unique car which is different from the existing car.”
Sawa admitted in Europe and markets like Australia, the heritage and rich history of brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz has been a continuous driving force behind their sales.
“Most of the European or Australia customers may appreciate the reputation of authentic European brands however again, we are young so to make them choose Lexus, Lexus should be different and unique and also have to provide some suitable reason to choose Lexus, that reason has to be very unique so if we get into the same battlefield, which was established by existing luxury brands maybe people appreciate more heritage and reputation but if we can build our own field, it will be unique, private.
"Like Japanese food… each field is different, people want to eat Chinese, Japanese, French. So we would like to provide our own emotion. So that is our big challenge.”
The Toyota-owned luxury brand has four pillars for its efforts. They include innovative technology, encompassing autonomous systems, fuel cell powertrains or hybrid systems.
This is followed by ‘great design’, which Sawa says is emphasised by the LC500. ‘Technical competency’ is the third pillar, followed by ‘exhilarating performance’.
“Our company is still growing. It’s not perfect yet but it’s getting better, better and better. We would like to establish our own drive feel.
"Starting from LC we expressed such a new drive feel, to satisfy those four differentiators, the product should be different from others and on top of that, our unique services and activities related to the vehicle creates a different value.”
In European and Australian markets the brand lags behind the three Germans. Lexus sold 8,800 vehicles in Australia last year, compared to 37,068 for Mercedes-Benz, 23,619 for BMW and 22,011 for Audi.