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Viewing and buying the new LC500 convertible – or any Lexus car – can now be made virtually  

In many ways, the CoViD-19 pandemic has made every germophobe’s dream a reality as the “new normal” dictates physical distancing, no-touch and no-contact public interactions. And if you’re an ultra-rich germophobe with an eye for luxurious rides, there are now establishments that run right up your alley.

Lexus Manila, for one, offers its hassle-free, contactless purchase via its online Lexus Remote (log on to https://www.lexus.com.ph/en/lexus-remote.html). If you can wait up until July, you might very well want to check out the newest version of the LC500—a convertible that will make it possible for you to drive with the top down (after, of course, carefully weighing the risk of exposure).

The LC500 roof can be opened or closed even while the vehicle is traveling at up to 50 kph. An animation display within the instrument gauges will allow the driver to easily monitor the top’s operating progress. But among its gazillion other features, one thing worth mentioning is its naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8, mated to the DirectShift-10 automatic transmission expected to give the LC that “linear-yet-invigorating acceleration”. Lexus also says that its power output is tuned according to the driving scene, with smooth acceleration character during normal commuting, and acceleration at the limit when the driver desires. To make the LC Convertible’s V8 more enjoyable when the top is down, a sound generator transmits sensual engine intake sounds through the dash panel, while an exhaust valve enhances the powerful engine sound.

Inquirer Motoring witnessed the May 12 virtual/zoom press con at the Lexus Lounge, the highlight of which was the sneak peek of the P10.5-million LC500 convertible scheduled to roll onto the Lexus Manila showroom this July.

Buyers of the LC500 and other vehicles in the Lexus roster are what Lexus executives call “Experiential Masters”— individuals who are driven by passion and individuality. These are lifestyle enthusiasts looking for a vehicle that engages their senses, and provides emotional and transformative experiences; someone who has been looking for a car that shares and embodies his or her mindset on luxury with “amazing experiences”.

Inquirer Motoring learned about the recently launched Lexus Remote recently via email from Toyota Motor Philippines president Hiro Okamoto (Lexus is the luxury vehicle division of the Japanese auto giant). Lexus Manila will also be introducing additional alternative sales and service processes, which will allow customers to complete the guest experience virtually.

Alfred Ty, chairman for Toyota Motor Philippines and Lexus Manila, said that he welcomes the government-enforced modified ECQ level because, even if operations are only at 50 percent, that still means the business is already running.

Ty said that cars and mobility are essential drivers of the economy, and that every time the quarantine status changes, companies, in general, need to re-strategize.

Ty also believes the automotive industry will play a major role to keep boosting the economy and drive the nation forward. In addition, the demand for digital transformation will become more pressing for a lot of businesses. Lexus executives reiterated that for Lexus, as a brand whose core philosophy has always been human-centric, that means finding new ways to make their products and services more accessible and convenient to their consumers.

Auto industry veteran Vince Socco, chairman of GT Capital Auto Dealership Holdings and former executive vice president for Lexus Asia, said that he is confident that the industry will bounce back. He cited several crises that had seen the company recovering.

The Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc (Campi) has projected a 20-percent drop in the market while the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (Avid) estimated a 40-percent decline in auto sales. Lexus and Toyota executives say that they are hoping that the actual market performance would be closer to the Campi projections.

Ty said that though profit is something that the industry should be concerned about, what’s more important would still be the customers and the partnership with the government.

Inquirer Motoring mentioned to Ty how the industry has been talking about banks going strict in approving car loans, explaining that even if people would rush to buy cars to avoid riding with others in public transportation in this time of social distancing, financing companies and banks might not be that receptive. Ty said that banks would still need to do business, and that there would have to be certain criteria for lending that banks must follow, but then, he said, stimulating demand would also be important, and not be on the defensive side.

Carlo Ablaza, vice president for brand communications at Lexus Philippines, said that in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has the most number of sales for the LC500 and RC models, and that this can be attributed mainly due to Lexus Manila customers seeking Japanese high-luxury performance vehicles with the Lexus badge of quality, reliability and durability.

Asked about Lexus Manila’s offers of aspirational cars, Raymond T. Rodriguez, Lexus Manila president, said that the most premium models in the lineup are those that belong to Lexus flagship model lines, namely the LC coupe, the LS sedan, the LM van—all starting from P9 million.

Rodriguez also said purchase transactions for Lexus vehicles can now be made even without a visit to the dealership, one of the adjustments to the new normal.

They recently introduced an alternative sales process called the Lexus Remote, which is a simple, contactless purchase journey on the company website that will allow our customers to complete the guest experience virtually.

“Market situations and needs vary per country. Especially now that we are in the midst of a crisis, the need to review our strategies is imperative. We are considering new ways to make vehicle purchase and servicing easier, more convenient, and more accessible to our consumers.”

The LC500 may be known as the concept car that has become a reality, but it is more than just its bold design, if you ask Lexus executives. Apart from styling, the LC’s performance, technology, and craftsmanship would be most sought-after for this model.

Lexus Manila also offers a wide range of self-charging hybrids to suit the varying tastes of consumers. These are the LS 500h, RX 450h, NX 300h, GS 450h, and the CT 200h.

Rodriguez said that Lexus Manila has been known for its one-price policy that still remains applicable in the Lexus Manila showroom. He added that to address the expected contractions in the automotive industry post-CoViD, one strategy would be to review Lexus Manila’s current vehicle inventory and be more conservative in terms of production.

The Experiential Masters would be delighted to know that the LC 500 is available in 11 exterior and two interior colors. The LC Convertible will also be offered in two additional exterior (Blazing Carnelian and Terrane Khaki) and two additional interior colors (Ochre + Beige rooftop and Ochre + Black rooftop). Now, even germophobes can drive “topless” in many colors, if they dare.

Speaking of germs, Lexus Manila and Toyota Motor Philippines will offer free anti-bacterial treatment Bactaklenz when car owners avail themselves of periodic maintenance, general repair or body and paint repair.

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