Can a car manufacturer come of age? Lexus’s European boss seems to think so.
“We’re 25 years old now,” says Alain Uyttenhoven, “and I’d call that the end of puberty. We’re about to become a grown-up company.”
That new-found maturity manifested itself at the recent Geneva motor show with the LF-SA, a diminutive small crossover concept that drew as much criticism for its overt, complex, fussy styling as it did praise for boldness.
Lexus sources, Uyttenhoven included, are at pains to state that the show car, a four-seater smaller than a Mini, is not about to appear in a showroom any time soon. And yet its very existence gives a pointer to Lexus’s new approach, particularly to the European market.
Whisper it, but Toyota’s luxury arm has realised not merely that it can take risks, but that it really ought to.
“When we started 25 years ago, the references were all about status in the luxury car market, and we have tried for some time to somehow be like the others,” says Uyttenhoven, who brought product management experience with Daimler and Opel to Toyota Europe before rising up to Lexus’s top European post just over a year ago.
“What we’ve decided is that because we are the challenger, we have to be different. We have to be distinctive, be bold and produce cars that don’t look like the other offerings in the segment. What we know, from customer clinics, is that our design polarises at the moment. And we want that.
“Take the NX. It’s probably our most polarising model, but we have 80% conquest with it, and people say they’re coming to the car because of the design. And that’s the point: design is one of the main reasons why people switch from one brand to another.