Is Lexus Reinventing Itself? Discuss.

June 15, 2011

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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