Lexus' Journey to the Top of Luxury Car Market
Slideshow: Toyota dug deep and came up with a revolutionary car that set the stage for the rest of the Lexus vehicles.
In Pursuit of Greatness
In the mid-1980s, Toyota made a move that the majority of the automotive world did not anticipate. It unveiled the Lexus luxury brand – a brand that was meant to challenge BMW, Mercedes, and Jaguar in the luxury car segments. Toyota’s intention with the Lexus brand was not just to be a sideshow in the luxury car industry; on the contrary, its intention was and still is to claim a significant share of the luxury market and prove itself as a formidable luxury manufacturer. This was confirmed when Eiji Toyoda, then chairman of Toyota, announced their goal to construct the best car in the world. The project was named Flagship One in order to expand the product line of the brand.
The First Offering
The first offering intriguingly ended up being one of the best products Lexus would provide to the market. This was the LS 400's first generation, whose offering would one day drive into the million-mile hall of fame. The LS 400 was unique as it shared no elements with the other vehicles that Toyota had produced up to that time. There was a large team complete with a hundred designers and thousands of engineers who participated in the development of the LS 400. During the release year, it happened to beat both the BMW 735i and Mercedes-Benz 420 SE offerings at the time. There are particular features that Lexus came up with to accentuate performance and driving experience.
In the assembly, panels are usually joined to the shell of the car with the use of particular spot welds. Despite the fact that this panel assembly method had been proved to be effective, Lexus chose to take another route to improve the build quality of the LS 400. They chose to use body adhesives to join the different panels. The utilization of adhesives for the panels meant that rather than being joined through spot welding, the bond would be formed along the surface of joined panels. This type of panel bonding improved body rigidity, which resulted in a more solid driving feel and consequently a better driving experience.
Photo Courtesy of boronextrication.com
As proposed by the lead engineer at the time, Ichiro Suzuki, the Lexus Musts were a list of standards formulated by Toyota for each model to provide top-of-the-line performance and durability. Apparently, the LS 400 and subsequent models had to pass over 500 design, quality, and engineering regulations before released into the market. Examples of these regulations included control sensitivity, performance tuning, and the stitching of the interior. The development and engineering personnel were personally liable for the Lexus Musts on each of the models; this led to a high level of accountability.
The Takumi Craftsmen
As if the Lexus Musts were not enough to make certain that the production was up to par for the LS 400 and other models, there were also a select number of specialists whose job was to further benchmark the quality of the LS 400. They were and still are at the top of the development chain at Toyota. They made sure that the exacting standards of the Lexus Musts were met at all of the stages of development and production for the company. Apparently, in order to qualify to become a Takumi Craftsman, technicians had to have decades of service at Toyota under their belts and they also needed to be able to create an origami cat with their non-dominant hands in less than 90 seconds.
Sparing No Expense on the Power
During the creation of the flagship engine i.e. the 1UZ-FE, Toyota tested 973 prototypes in an amazing feat to construct the smoothest and most efficient V8 of the time. Lightweight aluminum parts in the valve train were added to maintain consistency during the high revs. The result was a smooth and virtually vibration-free motor. This was further illustrated by a ‘glass of water’ test. The LS 400 was also constructed alongside the Soarer and Supra to show it was a similar offering in a specialized class of its own, too great to be built with the other commoners.
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The brand's vision of Lexus has been to pursue the ideal of perfection. Based on Toyota’s impressive history including aggressive business strategies and value when it comes to innovation, there is no doubt the brand will continue to exceed expectations for the market by maintaining durability and dominance.
Photo courtesy of theverge.com
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