California Dreaming: Would Lexus Gain by Moving its Global Headquarters?

LEXUS-MOVES-TO-CA.jpgWith models like the LFA, IS F, and GS F Sport in its stable, it's hardly a secret Lexus wants to move beyond pillow-soft luxury cars into serious high-performance territory. And if recent rumors are any indication, this strategic shift might also involve uprooting its corporate HQ.

Lexus is currently based in Toyota City, Japan. But Executive Vice President Yukitoshi Funo has expressed interest in changing the perception of Lexus from a Japanese brand into a "transnational" one, which might mean a new world headquarters in Southern California. Starting in January, the company's global marketing group will be based out of its Torrance facility, and competitor Nissan--with its design center in San Diego--also has a formidable footprint in the Golden State. So California seems like a natural choice.  

But really, why move? Given the strength of the yen, manufacturing cars in the states is certainly a smart strategy. So while putting Lexus factories on this side of the Pacific would be welcome news to cash-strapped counties, that move would just be seen as another smart decision by one of the industry's smartest manufacturers.

The thing we find confusing is Funo's idea of a "transnational" brand. What does that even mean? Cars are intrinsically linked to their home country. There isn't a single manufacturer which really transcends its nationality, and that's the way things should be. It's why nobody gets upset when Ferraris catch fire--because everyone knows Italian cars are always one spaghetti strand away from self immolation.

Two decades ago when the brand launched, buyers were skeptical. But Lexus proved a Japanese company could make a world-class luxury car. And with the LFA, its engineers demonstrated they could also build a soul-stirring exotic. At this point, the Japanese reputation for rock-solid reliability is a big bonus, so what's with the "transnational" idea? Even if Lexus put its HQ on the moon, it would still be seen as a Japanese company.

What do you think? Does Lexus stand to gain anything by moving its headquarters to Southern California? Head over to the Forum and sound off!