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Toyota plans to launch Lexus in Japan
NAGOYA, Japan — Fifteen years after the first Lexus automobile went on sale in North America, Toyota Motor Corp. is planning to launch its luxury brand in Japan. Toyota is setting up 180 Lexus dealerships in Japan and plans to start sales in August 2005 with a first-year sales target of 50,000 to 60,000 vehicles. Toyota has sold more than 2.4 million Lexus models since its launch.

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Some commentary:

I happen to be a big Lexus fan, but stories like these remind us that--no matter how well Lexus can succeed in building fine luxury automobiles--one thing Lexus does not possess is a true heritage of greatness.

While brands like Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz have 100+ years of proud history, and while great brands like these developed their reputation over decades of innovation and defining the automobile as we know it today, Lexus was born in a meeting room full of marketing consultants and executives whose goal from the beginning was to find a way to sell Toyotas to more affluent buyers, primarily in the United States and Europe.

Cadillac was named by its founder, Henry Leland, in honor of the founder of Detroit. Leland later named his other company, Lincoln, after one of modern history's most profound and honored leaders.

The name Lexus is pure invention. It does not honor anyone, it does not reflect the greatness of any individual or tradition, it does not communicate in any way who its makers are. It was invented simply to sound good enough to create the necessary distinction between these fine cars and the more "plebian" models offered by Toyota.

Of course, if one points out that Lexus is merely an outlet for Toyota's finer cars, one could also say that Cadillac is simply an outlet for GM's finer cars, Lincoln is an outlet for FoMoCo's finer cars, and so-on.

But for those for whom heritage and tradition count for something, there is something hollow about Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura when news like this reminds us that these are marketing inventions more than trail blazers and innovators.
 

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I agree about the lack of tradition. If only they'd introduce some interesting cars they could start building one for themselves. E.g. lots of people look back on how great the Legend used to be, and years from now people will be commenting on how much the present G35 kicked ***, but Lexus just has nothing of interest to anyone.
 

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cadillac's heritage meant nothing when GM was producing poor quality cadillac boats in the 80's and early 90's. what i consider more hollow than lexus, infiniti, and acura is the rash of sub-standard cadillacs thrown at consumers over the last quarter of the 1900's. if i had been looking for a luxury car in that era i'd have considered lexus a breath of fresh air. heritage is fine... resting on your laurels is not. cadillac is back where it should be, and where it should have stayed. lexus deserves credit for coming out of nowhere (well okay, toyotaland) 15 years ago and building the cars cadillac should have been building. without lexus isn't there a chance the current CTS would be a rebadged cavalier with wire wheels and a vinyl top?
 

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I'm most curious to see how Toyota will negotiate the transfer of vehicles over time from Toyota to Lexus in Japan. The article (and others that I've read) gives few details about how this transfer will occur. For example, will it be one day that cutomers are buying Toyota Harriers, while the next day they'll be buying Lexus RX330's? I wonder how people will come to understand this differentiation.
 

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Toyota vehicles in Japan are currently sold under various dealerships (it slips my mind exactly how many, but it's 5 or 6), they just don't change the brand name. It's as if you sold Chevrolets through Oldsmobile and Cadillac dealers...but sold them as Chevrolets. Each dealer network for Toyota has its own products, sometime rebadged as GM does...but they cater to a certain group of buyers...just like GM's brands do.

With Lexus being introduced in Japan, it's not as big of a deal as it may seem. These formerly high-line "Toyota" products will now be sold as "Lexus"-brand products.

As for the heritage...yes that comes over time. But as was pointed out, Cadillac lost much of its luster in the decades leading up to the introduction of the Northstar engine. It is only now really coming back to its standing among the best luxury brands. Nobody can seriously say that a Cadillac of, say, 1985 was world-class. It took the likes of Lexus and Infiniti and Acura to show the players in this market that luxury cars could be taken to a higher level of refinement and quality. The LS400 moved the bar...as did the Infiniti Q45...and the Acura Legend before them.

Heritage is a great thing from the perspective of an automotive historian. It doesn't really mean much to a buyer who's investing $60k in a car.

By the way, Mercedes-Benz only goes back about 3/4 of a century...only a couple of years YOUNGER than Lincoln.
 

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Originally posted by Hudson@May 28 2004, 04:34 AM
By the way, Mercedes-Benz only goes back about 3/4 of a century...only a couple of years YOUNGER than Lincoln.
:woot2:

Thank you!! Someone else in the world actually understands this!!

I get tired of hearing the claim that "Mercedes-Benz is the oldest car company in the world"--a dubious claim that I used to hear regularly on MB commercials a few years ago, but from which they seem to have backed off a bit.

The reason they make this claim is because the company that Karl Benz founded in 1883 (originally not a producer of cars) is not the same company as the merged Daimler/Benz entity that created Mercedes-Benz in 1926 to produce automobiles.

It wouldn't be unlike GM making a claim that it has been around since 1897--even though it wasn't created until 1908--on the basis that Oldsmobile, which GM acquired in 1908, was itself founded in 1897. Heck, you might as well say that Saturn has been around that long.

And if that weren't enough, the claim that "Mercedes-Benz invented the automobile" really gets under my skin. Not only is it a patently false statement, it's a particularly obnoxious and arrogant claim. Even if one qualified the statement, i.e. "Mercedes-Benz invented the modern automobile", it would still be a ridiculous statement--that is, unless "modern automobile" is defined as a 3-wheeled, tiller-driven vehicle.

I hate to give the French any great credit these days, but there were patented, gas-powered, four-wheeled, steering wheel driven automobiles in France and Belgium as early as 1862, significantly pre-dating the 1885 Benz carriage.

Don't get me wrong--I'm not anti-MB at all. As I mentioned earlier, MB is a truly admirable heritage, and today's Mercedes are fabulous automobiles even if competitive pressures have compromised on the lower end of the range. They don't need to resort to making such ridiculous claims to sell their cars.
 

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Originally posted by paul8488@May 27 2004, 06:06 PM
cadillac's heritage meant nothing when GM was producing poor quality cadillac boats in the 80's and early 90's. what i consider more hollow than lexus, infiniti, and acura is the rash of sub-standard cadillacs thrown at consumers over the last quarter of the 1900's. if i had been looking for a luxury car in that era i'd have considered lexus a breath of fresh air. heritage is fine... resting on your laurels is not. cadillac is back where it should be, and where it should have stayed. lexus deserves credit for coming out of nowhere (well okay, toyotaland) 15 years ago and building the cars cadillac should have been building. without lexus isn't there a chance the current CTS would be a rebadged cavalier with wire wheels and a vinyl top?
Well said. Heritage is no substitute for producing great cars. And if you're producing great cars, your heritage is irrelevant.

Let's focus on the cars, not the history.
 
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