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Is Lexus Reinventing Itself? Discuss.

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Lexus 'Engineering Amazing' commercial

By now, you've probably seen the first of Lexus' new commercials -- the ones with the tagline "Engineering Amazing" -- but for those who spend less time on the sofa than we do, have a look:

When we first saw that clip, we were a little curious. The Lexus we used to know was all about style and refinement (or occasionally, musical prowess), but this ad talks up some different selling points. They're the same points that Lexus has been pushing in its campaign for the CT 200h -- namely, the brand's forward-thinking technology and, secondarily, its green credentials -- but without the backhanded compliment implied by the tagline, "The Darker Side of Green".

So what gives? To be sure, we're used to seeing this sort of tech-centric approach from Lexus' parent company, Toyota, especially when it's touting the Prius. (Though Prius ads occasionally come with a side order of hippy-dippy flavor.) But Lexus? Is this the brand's new direction?

In a press release, Dave Nordstrom, Lexus' vice president of marketing, validates our suspicions: "This isn’t just a campaign, it’s a statement that, for Lexus, the best is yet to come." Translation: Lexus is in the process of reinventing itself.

Too little, too late?

Lexus is known for many things, but being timely isn't at the top of the list. The company's highly touted, limited-run LFA supercar arrived well behind schedule, and so far, sales have been pretty disappointing, even when you take into account the production delays caused by the March 11 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. (Paris Hilton got an LFA for her 30th birthday, though. One down, 499 to go.)

Riding behind the curve might also be responsible for Lexus' recent slip from its #1 sales spot in the U.S. luxury market. While the Tohoku disaster didn't help in that case either, most analysts say that the stumble had been a long time coming, thanks to Lexus' aging lineup.

To judge from the look of this new "Engineering Amazing" campaign, Lexus may have finally realized that it's sink-or-swim time. To stay afloat, it appears that the company has hoisted a very green sail, but we have to wonder: can Lexus leverage its (i.e. Toyota's) cleantech credentials to carve out a new niche in the luxury market? And just as important: do luxury customers even care about green rides?

The jury's still out on that first question, but for the second, signs point to no. Then again, companies have gotten away with more far-fetched ideas. Remember, folks laughed at Evian for selling bottled water. And of course, there's the Snuggie to consider.

Feel free to weigh in with your own opinions about Lexus, green tech, and the future of luxury in the comments below.

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Comments (4)
  1. I've noticed none of my friends (and most of the media) don't mention Lexus in the same sentence when talking about luxury cars. We say "BMW, Mercedes, Audi" but rarely add Lexus to that list. I think many Americans have downgraded Lexus in their minds to second-tier luxury status, like Volvo, Cadillac, Acura. Which is apt due to their dull Buick-like vehicles with bland styling and faux-luxury interiors.
     
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  2. I'm driving my first Lexus, a 2007 IS250, and I like the car very much. But I'm starting to think about replacing it, and the new Lexus models leave me cold. The IS has barely changed in the 4 years since I bought mine, and the 200h seems to be incredibly overpriced - especially for the extras which were included as standard on my IS. Yes, Lexus wasn't cheap, but it still represented good value for the money. Now the company is trying to coast - but they should realize that one can't coast uphill.
     
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  3. Look who you see driving a Lexus. Woman, and men over the age of 60. Have they have become the luxury Buick?
    I went from BMW to an IS250.I found a nice luxury car, but low on power compared to the BMW 3 series with doors as tinny as a cheap compact.
     
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  4. Lexus always exemplified simplicity and reliability over performance and sophistication so by definition Lexus is not a true luxury brand, but rather a quality brand like Acura and Lincoln. I disagree with Rich Shanks though, as Cadillac is easily on par with the likes of Daimler Benz or Audi in performance while surpassing them in durability.
     
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