In 1989, the Toyota Motor Corporation introduced the Lexus brand with the launch of the Lexus LS sedan. Toyota began developing Lexus in the early 1980s as a request by the chairman to produce a luxury vehicle to compete with the world's best. The fact that Honda launched the Acura brand in the mid-1980s, and that Nissan introduced plans for the Infiniti line further, spurred Toyota in its decision to create and launch an upmarket Lexus.
While theories about the name allude to a flawless combination of luxury and elegance or as blended nickname of "luxury exports" and "U.S.," the original development team states that it has no secret meaning. The company's choice of the word denoted an image of luxury combined with advanced technology. Initially, it was thought that the up-market sedan could be added to the top end of the Toyota line, but after carrying out much research, it was decided that it would be better to create a new line for this initial sedan with the goal of adding more models in the future.
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Lexus in America
During the 1980s, export regulations between Japan and America were relaxed due to negotiations between the countries' governments. This led Japanese car manufacturers to look at how it could expand into the American market. Not only was Toyota planning expansion of its models under this brand, it was developing a new network of Lexus dealerships across America. From the start, Lexus was offered separately from Toyota vehicles, although many dealerships shared buildings and land with each other.
The Lexus LS 400 sedan was a unique vehicle that did not share any components with Toyota vehicles. The extensive design and development of this vehicle ensured that Toyota had created something new. It debuted in the midsize luxury sedan market and was positioned against Mercedes-Benz and BMW models, which were both significantly more expensive than the new offering from Toyota. As well as launching the LS 400, the Lexus ES 250 was also launched to offer a front-wheel drive sedan as well as the rear-wheel drive LS 400.
With the successful launch in the U.S. in 1989, exports of Lexus were expanded to the U.K., Canada, Australia, and Switzerland. In 1991, the first sport coupe was called the SC 400 and launched with further growth and development planned for the brand. As the 1990s progressed, updated and new models were launched, including the LX 450 in 1996, the first sport utility vehicle (SUV) created by Lexus. This was followed in 1998 with the RX 300 that provided a luxury crossover SUV for those drivers who wanted an SUV, but didn't want or need the offroad capabilities.
Throughout the 2000s, Lexus continued to expand its markets, and in July 2005, became the first Japanese premium vehicle sold domestically in Japan. A year later, the first hybrid Lexus vehicle, the GS 450h sedan was introduced. Subsequent models have been developed as hybrid vehicles, including sedans and SUVs. In 2010, the first hatchback was launched in Europe with plans for the U.S. to do the same in upcoming years.
The current Lexus lineup consists of 11 models. The five sedans are presented as the compact IS and HS, midsize ES and GS, and the full-size LS that's a flagship vehicle. Three SUVs are produced, which are the crossover RX series, the midsize GX, and the full-size LX. The only hatchback is the CT, and the high-performance F marquee division.
All Lexus vehicles are named using two letters. The first designates its relative ranking and status in the range and the second letter refers to the car body style. The two letters are followed by three numbers, which give the engine displacement in liters of the vehicle multiplied by 100. For example, the RX 350 designates the vehicle as the smallest SUV, the letter X designates the SUV line for Lexus, and it has an engine displacement of 3.5 L, which gives the number 350. Hybrids have a lower case "h" after the numbers.
Lexus Products and Technologies
From the beginning, Lexus was designed using around 500 specific criteria. These product standards are referred to as "Lexus Musts" and set the bar for the high level of performance, comfort, and aesthetics for the vehicle. Current models have a keyless entry feature using a smart key entry and starting system. Also, the multimedia features are constantly updated. With the latest RX models, a touchscreen display and a mouse-like controller were added to streamline navigation systems. Since inception, Lexus has partnered with premium audio providers to ensure that all vehicles are equipped with the best sounding audio equipment found. Acoustic glass was added to later models to reduce road noise.