If you believe that nothing is impossible, the results might just be amazing. Toyota chairman and some of his executives once posed a question and decided to defy other’s skepticism, by answering “yes”. They asked themselves whether or not they could make a luxury vehicle to compete with what the market of that time had to offer.
The meeting was secretly held in 1983 and soon afterwards the top-secret F1 project started. F1 stood for “Flagship” “Number 1 Car” and it was an instant and huge success. The Japanese had one particular car market in mind while working on the F1, later called the Lexus LS 400. Their goal was to awe the U.S. high-end vehicles customers. And because they wanted to make a perfect job, they took all the time they needed to conduct researches and prepare their project as well as they possibly could.
They even sent a delegation in the U.S. in 1985 to study and observe the upper-class customers in their natural “habitat”. After spending one summer there, the market researchers decided that Toyota had to come up with a new brand and new dealerships in the country for the luxury division. So 81 new Lexus dealerships were established across North America and in 1989 the LS 400 was presented at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The car seemed to have all the qualities one could ask for in a luxury vehicle, and only a few voices dared to find some flaws in the LS 400. It was a silent, very aerodynamic, highly ergonomic car with good engine performance. Plus, in terms of looks it was much different from all other Toyota models. European automakers like BMW and Mercedes-Benz were taken by surprise and their U.S. sales were considerably affected: a 29% and 19% drop, respectively.
The 1990s began with an expansion project, and thus Lexus entered new markets in the world: Canada, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Later the first Lexus sport sedan was launched – the SC 400 – and the very successful ES 300 sedan. Only three years after its debut on the American market, Lexus became the import luxury car maker that registered the highest selling figures in the States. By 1999 it had become the best selling luxury car brand in the country.
During the 1990s Lexus continued to grow and expand its horizon. In 1996 the Japanese manufacturer unveiled its first sport utility vehicle, the LX 450, and in 1998 their first crossover SUV – the RX 300 – was released. In 1999 the Lexus sold its one millionth car in the States.
Then the 2000s came and in 2001 Lexus launched its first convertible car, the SC 430. The two-million-U.S.-sold-cars threshold was reached in 2004, and starting with the following year, Lexus separated itself from Toyota on new levels: manufacturing, design, engineering, and training. Sadly, the global crisis of the late 2000s also affected Lexus and its sales dropped considerably. However, the Japanese luxury automaker remains one of the best in the world.