A mere 11 years after releasing its first hybrid model, Lexus has created a unique selling proposition by owning the widest hybrid model lineup
The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection.”
If you are an honest car lover, it is quite impossible not to recall this slogan and to which brand it is associated with.
After six years of planning in the 1980s, along with extensive research and development by 3,700 engineers and technicians, 450 prototypes, over 1.5 million kilometers of testing, and a name whittled down from 200 choices to mean Luxury and Elegance, Lexus established itself as a worthy contender to European luxury car brands when it revealed its first car, the LS400 in 1989.
But along with the engineering and financial feat that its parent company Toyota was able to muster to create a proper rival to the Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi luxury car oligopoly, Lexus also began a culture of luxury that would remain the gold standard to this day.
When the initial releases of the LS400 were discovered to have power steering problems, recalls had to be made. Lexus technicians were said to have been sent to the homes of owners who lived about 160 kilometers from the dealership to work on their cars. The cars were fixed for free, even given a wash and wax treatment along with a full tank of gas. This level of service and care was unheard of back then. Honestly, it is still a rarity today. But it just goes to show how far Toyota will go to make its luxury brand walk the talk.
This attention to detail also demonstrates the great lengths Lexus as a brand will take to create not only a product that exceeds expectations, but also an experience that matches it.
So from meticulous design and engineering, to elevated levels of luxury and craftsmanship, to obsessive attention to precision, and a culture of omotenashi, or Japanese hospitality that anticipates the needs of its customers even without being asked to do so, Lexus has matured into a brand that can now dictate the direction of the luxury segment and even take jabs on the high-end sports car market, as it did with the LFA.
This year, it even topped the J.D.Power 2021 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study by being the most dependable auto brand in the U.S. with Porsche and Kia coming in second and third. No mean feat considering the competitive landscape where it goes against 33 brands in the study.
But more than excelling customer expectations in terms of build quality and craftsmanship, Lexus put its money on technology that would not only give it some environmental credentials, but also allow it to create a clear distinction against its competitors – Hybrid Drive technology.
Learning from Toyota’s foray into hybrid vehicle technology with its Prius range, Lexus introduced the RX400h in 2005. This is the first luxury hybrid SUV and was powered by a 3.3-liter V6 gasoline engine and three electric motors. The Japanese luxury marque would follow this up with the world’s first rear-wheel drive luxury hybrid sedan, the GS 450h in 2006. And in 2007, its flagship model itself, the LS 600h, would get the hybrid treatment.
Lexus’ first dedicated hybrid model, the HS 250h, along with its first luxury compact, the CT 200h, would come out in 2011. A year later, the ES 300h was launched, followed by the IS 300h and the GS 300h in 2013. The first hybrid luxury midsize crossover, the NX 300h was next to be released in 2014. While the first luxury hybrid sports coupe, the RC 300h, was unveiled by the end of 2015.
By 2016, Lexus would go on record to have sold over 1 million hybrid vehicles. A mere 11 years after releasing its first hybrid model. And with almost 2 million hybrid vehicles sold to date, along with 10 hybrid models in its fold, Lexus has created a unique selling proposition by owning the widest hybrid model lineup.
Over the years, Lexus hybrid technology has evolved. Its original goals of maximizing fuel efficiency and lowering emissions were achieved by combining the power from the gasoline engine and the electric motor to propel the car. Today’s Hybrid Drive Technology by Lexus is now labeled the Multi-Stage Hybrid System. And this time, it was developed with opposing goals: achieving a sporty and engaging driving experience while still delivering the best possible balance of power and fuel consumption.
The new system found in the LC500h sports coupe and the LS500h flagship sedan combines the usual full hybrid powertrain – a petrol engine, a powerful motor and a lithium battery pack – to an automatic gearbox that is located behind the hybrid continuous variable transmission. This extra mechanical gearbox allows a more direct connection between the accelerator pedal and vehicle acceleration. This also lets the ‘M’ Mode deliver more direct and responsive shifts throughout simulating a 10-speed automatic transmission’s sporty feel.
And this is just halfway through the evolutionary stage. Reports claim that this spring, Lexus will reveal a new brand vision and a new concept vehicle. Given its investment in hybrid technology and electrification, as well as its conviction to be a groundbreaking brand, the new direction will most likely see more emphasis on the application of the Multi-Stage Hybrid System, or a plug-in hybrid, or even new electric vehicle options throughout its model lineup.
Lexus has positioned Hybrid Drive as its key technology in addressing environmental responsibility and now, driving satisfaction. Given its history of aspiring for perfection, it can only get better for Lexus and its customers in the years to come.
Motoring and motorsports are two of Mikko’s greatest passions. Combining more than twenty years of professional automotive photography and videography experience with years of touring car racing competition, and a deep understanding of the car industry, from both the manufacturers’ and consumers’ points of view, have given him a unique and insightful perspective in the motoring beat.