Published On: Tue, Dec 23rd, 2014

5 Interesting Facts About Lexus You Probably Never Knew

Like most automakers, Lexus is a marque rich with history and innovation. The company first started to produce cars back in 1989. Their flagship model, the “LS”, rolled off the production lines in Japan.

The Toyota-owned company makes luxury cars. They are gunning for the top spot amongst the likes of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. You might already know about these facts. But I bet you don’t know about these five interesting facts below!


1. Toyota had plans for Lexus before 1989

As I mentioned a moment ago, the Lexus marque was only introduced to the market in 1989. But did you know that Toyota had plans for it well before then?

Around seven years prior to the official launch of Lexus, Toyota’s chairman, Eiji Toyoda, set a challenge. He wanted his company to build the best car ever to grace any roads around the world. Codenamed “F1,” the aim of the top-secret project was to come up with a sedan that had the best of everything.

After years of development, the result was the Lexus LS 400, as shown in the photograph above. Before the birth of the Lexus brand and the LS 400, the largest luxury sedan car Toyota produced was the Toyota Crown.

As part of the LS 400’s development, Toyota sent some officials to the United States in 1985 on a fact-finding mission. They wanted to learn what consumers wanted out of luxury cars. And so they carried out a plethora of research on their target audience. They determined that a separate car brand needed creating to reach these consumers, hence the Lexus brand.

2. The Lexus “F1 project” was a mammoth automotive feat

As far as new car brand launches go, Lexus is notable for its high investment and staff costs. According to Lexus insiders, the F1 project cost over $1 billion in the 1980s. A team of 60 designers, 2,300 technicians, and 1,400 engineers were all involved in the making of the Lexus LS 400 and the new brand itself.

Although Toyota own the Lexus brand, they were proud of the fact the LS 400 didn’t make use of any significant and existing Toyota components. Toyota were keen to create a fresh new brand and a fresh new car to the luxury vehicle market.

At the time of launch, the Lexus LS 400 got praised for its styling, comfort and performance. The new model was such a success that BMW saw its sales drop by 29% when the Lexus LS 400 launched. Even Mercedes-Benz’s sales fell too, by 19%. Suddenly, the German “Big Three” had something to worry about: Lexus!

3. Lexus operates as a separate entity to Toyota

Even though Lexus is a subsidiary of the Toyota Motor Corporation, it operates as a separate entity. As you might expect, all Lexus vehicles get produced in Japan, Toyota’s home country.

But as of 2001, Lexus has its own design, engineering, and manufacturing centers. That means the company can focus on its stringent quality control checks. As well as its attention to detail and top build quality.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a salesman at Inchcape Lexus about the Lexus brand. He told me that when each motor gets made, a specialist checks the engine by hand with a stethoscope. They do this to ensure it “sounds” well when it’s running on the test bench!

With most automakers, engines are tested on an automated platform by robots rather than humans. The thing about manufacturing robots is that they don’t always get things right. That’s why Lexus hand finishes each car it builds.

There is a blog post on the Lexus website about a former supplier that had the privilege of touring one of the Lexus factories. It’s well worth a read if you’ve got a few minutes spare!

4. Lexus use a simple model nomenclature

It’s a well-known fact that automakers use all sorts of weird and wonderful names for their models. BMW uses numbers that roughly equate to engine sizes and model “series” names, for example.

But what about Lexus? If you’re dying to know what those individual letters and numbers mean, let me help demystify them for you!

  • The first letter of the model name refers to the “status” of the car in the model range;
  • The second letter refers to the body style;
  • The numbers refer to the engine size in liters, multiplied by one hundred;
  • The lowercase letter at the end refers to the engine type.

Let’s take the car above as an example. It is a Lexus IS 220d:

  • I = Intelligent;
  • S = Sports;
  • 220 = 2.2-liter;
  • d = Diesel.

Some models might have additional lettering. Such as the Lexus RC F. The “RC” means “Racing Coupe” and the “F” means “Fuji Speedway.” The latter is because such new models are tested on that track before they begin production.

5. Lexus favors quality over quantity

We all know that Lexus makes mass-produced luxury cars. Just like the other automakers in its market. But what some people don’t realize is that Lexus favors quality over quantity. It’s no secret that they have the money and the infrastructure to “churn out” large volumes of cars.

But Lexus wants to define itself in the market as an automaker that takes pride in the cars it builds. Examples include manual inspections of engines and strict scrutiny of paintwork and bodywork.

Their attention to detail in the cars they produce is comparable to that of companies like Bentley and Rolls Royce. Except that the prices Lexus charge for their vehicles are more affordable. That is clearly a benefit of being under Toyota ownership as they are the values they stick by.

Lexus have stated to the motoring press on many occasions that they would prefer to build low volumes of cars rather than high ones. That’s because they want everyone to own a “perfect” Lexus.