Awesome Auto History: The Story Behind the Lexus LS400 (Video)

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Donut Media looks at the history of the LS400 sedan and how it helped make Lexus a household name in the U.S.

In their latest video, Donut Media goes into the history of the Lexus LS400 and how it changed the automotive game.

To give you a brief synopsis, the oil crisis of the 1970s had helped Japanese car makers, such as Honda and Toyota, establish a sound foothold in the United States. However, their success was fundamentally limited to the mass-market segment. Luxury buyers still flocked to the Germans and the Americans.

This bothered Toyota, as it felt it had the resources and the capabilities to manufacture vehicles on par with Mercedes, BMW, and Cadillac. And also, they could sell them at a lower price-point. Subsequently, and after much discussion, the company began to develop its first premium offering, a flagship sedan, to be marketed under the new “Lexus” brand.

Lexus LS400 History - Donut Media

“Toyota named the project ‘F1’ not for Formula One but for ‘Flagship One,’”says Donut Media’s James Pumphrey. “They enlisted the talents of 3700 technicians and engineers, split into 24 distinct teams. The new car would not share any components from any previous Toyota models. They had to start from scratch.”

Following several years of development, Toyota finally came up with the Lexus LS400 sedan, in 1989. A direct rival to the BMW 7-Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the vehicle went on sale in the USA in H2 1989 and received a phenomenal market response. “The LS400 really freaked up the whole darn ball game,” says Pumphrey. “It looked better than the Mercedes 300 SE…and had way more tech than whatever Cadillac had to offer. Drivers loved the quiet cabin and exceptionally smooth performance of the new V8.”


The LS400’s success quickly cemented Lexus as a leading luxury brand in America (third largest as of the end 2018) and fast forward to 2019, the company is selling the fifth-generation of the sedan with the base model starting at just over $75,000. The current LS has a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 that makes 416 hp and sprints from 0-60 miles per hour in 4.6 seconds. There is also a hybrid variant, badged LS500h which costs over $80,000.

“The LS is still going strong and now it’s not just the big boy, it’s one of the big dogs,” says Pumphrey.

Definitely check out the video for lots of interesting facts about Lexus, and its growth as a formidable force in the automotive market. 

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