Monday, July 2, 2012

Lexus Beginnings: Luxury Expectations Fulfilled. (Part 1)

Companies make mistakes. Sometimes BIG ones. They may deny it at first in an effort to make it go away. However, we don’t always believe them and ultimately, they dig a deeper hole to the point where they have to come clean. 

And then, the public knows they were wrong in the first place and the brand is tarnished by the whole rotten affair. 

Why try to sweep things under the rug in the first place? 

In my earlier days as a research analyst for a major car brand I was impressed by an example of a vehicle manufacturer coming forward and stating that oops, they made a mistake. It’s over twenty years later now, and that memory is still with me; obviously, they made an impression and they did it right from the start. 

The automotive industry was in for a big change in the mid-eighties. Just a decade before, Americans were accepting of all those small Japanese cars that were being imported into the country, thanks, in a large part to those “oh so high” gas prices. The notion of fuel economy became important to us.

So, we fell in love with Japanese cars for our basic transportation needs. It took Toyota a while to really “break us in”; in fact, they quickly discontinued sales of their first car available on U.S. shores in the early sixties. The quality just wasn’t at an acceptable level yet. Toyota came roaring back a few years later with a vehicle that was designed for the U.S. market and this time, they gained some market share and momentum. Other brands from Japan followed with some stumbling and eventually finding their places in the American marketplace.

So after Honda introduced a new brand, Acura, in 1986, it marked a turning point for Japanese vehicles all over again. The word luxury, for the first time, was associated with a Japanese vehicle for the very first time. Drum brakes and no power steering? Say goodbye to basics! Now, the European brands, most of them known for luxury, were enjoying an upward ride at that time, thanks to yuppies (remember them?). And from a corporate standpoint, who would have thought that the Japanese would take on the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volvo? 

Perhaps Honda wasn’t taken seriously enough at the beginning, with their new brand, aimed at the U.S. and serving a purpose of creating a place for all those Honda owners to go once they wanted to move up with more luxury and some cushier features in their vehicles. Acura was meant to be the brand for those Honda owners to aspire to.

Meanwhile, there were some things brewing at two other corporations. Nissan and Toyota had ideas about keeping owners loyal too. It just took them a few more years to get their initial products out the door.

1989. Double whammy! Along came TWO new brands, around the same time. One teased us with commercials with trees in them. The other hit us in the jugular with pricing far below their core targeted rival, Mercedes. 

1989 ES250
I remember a friend’s older sister buying a Lexus ES250 soon after introduction and saying “Twenty-one thousand dollars ….for a LEXUS!” She didn't know that the car was actually a Camry in disguise, hidden behind lots of luxurious features. 

Keep your hands on the wheel. Part two is coming! Say Hello! There's the websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+ ...I'll say Hi back.


Shannon Grissom said...

I agree. It's not the mistake that's the problem, it's how one handles it. Fess up, fix it and move on...

Gerry Wendel said...