Lexus’ History Tells a Story of How the Luxury Brand Changed the Auto Industry
30 years have passed since drivers were introduced to the Lexus. At first, drivers didn’t know what to think. Dealers were calling the Lexus a luxury vehicle, but it was made by Toyota, a company that didn’t have a reputation for producing luxury cars.
At the time, the manufacture was a respectable alternative to Volkswagen for drivers who were looking for fuel-efficient, reliable vehicles. Toyota vehicles like the Corolla and the Hilux pickup truck were decent, hardworking vehicles, but no one would call them flashy. At the time, no one predicted that Lexus would become the luxury brand that changed the auto industry.
Why Toyota created Lexus
Toyota had a clear-cut goal when it entered the American automotive market. It wanted to develop a strong brand with a loyal consumer base. After it’d been selling vehicles to American drivers for more than a decade, it studied the market and discovered that while consumers really like Toyota vehicles.
However, when a driver decided it was time to upgrade to a luxury vehicle, they didn’t even consider exploring anything at a Toyota dealership. Toyota decided that if they wanted to gain a foothold in the luxury car market, it only had one option, design a luxury sedan that would appeal to the upwardly mobile American driver.
This led to the creation of Lexus which went on to become a brand. Work on the vehicle that would eventually become the first Lexus started in 1983. The first Lexus sold in the United States was the Lexus LS.
Lexus’ debut wasn’t smooth sailing
Once the company was happy with the concept, it intended on using the 1989 Detroit auto show to debut the Lexus LS. These plans came to a screeching halt shortly before the show. Not because there was anything wrong with the vehicle, but because Mead Data Central objected to the name.
The Mead Data Central had developed a piece of software that they were calling Lexis. The company felt that the similarity in names justified filing a $100 million lawsuit against Toyota.
Surprisingly, the judge took Mead Data Central’s side. Toyota felt that if the car failed to live up to expectations, the name similarity would hurt the software company. Toyota appealed the ruling and eventually, the appeals court ruled that since a vehicle and a software program don’t have an identical target market, both businesses could use the name originally selected. The ruling meant that Toyota could go ahead with its plans to market the luxury sedan.
A surprising move
Before the original Lexus LS went on sale, Toyota made a surprising move. It decided that it didn’t want the Lexus to be just another car in the Toyota lineup.
The company decided it wanted it to be something special. So it decided to make the Lexus a brand name that would represent a desirable line of luxury vehicles. To help do this, Toyota reworked the current version of the Camry, adding just enough special features for people to think they were getting a luxury car and sold it alongside the Lexus LS. The posh version of the Camry was sold alongside the Lexus LS and billed as a budget-friendly luxury car.
Today there are several different types of vehicles bearing the Lexus name.
The first Lexus went on sale in August 1989. Drivers could purchase the vehicle for about $35,00 and enjoy a wide assortment of special features that weren’t commonly found in vehicles at the time.
Consumers were so impressed with the original Lexus LS that the company sold about 1,000 cars almost instantly. Later, Lexus made its European debut in 1990. In 2017, the company sold 35,461 in the United States. With the development of the Lexus brand, Toyota proved that a luxury car could be comfortable, fun, and reliable. We can expect to see Lexus’s on the road for many years to come.