“Lexus has taken a long and tough road to become an elite premium car brand”

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Steve Fowler thinks a lot of brands could learn from Lexus as they try to crack the premium end of the market.

Amid the e-mails and letters I get from readers, the cost of new cars is a recurring theme. They – like so many other things – are getting more and more expensive.

As much as all costs have risen in recent years, cars now come with more and more kit as standard – some demanded by consumers, some by legislators – and then there’s the added cost of electrification.

There’s also the march of mainstream brands and newcomers towards the premium end of the market, where the margins (and profits) are much greater.

Becoming premium is not the work of a moment, though. Plenty of brands have tried and failed, while others continue the struggle. Infiniti is one that has been and gone, while Genesis is having a crack at it.

Lexus is a fine example of playing the long game, though. From its origins in the corner of Toyota dealers back in the nineties to a real premium player today, it’s been a long, tough road to be considered among the established elite car brands of the world.

I spent some time recently with Pascal Ruch, boss of Lexus in Europe, as his brand is pushing for sizeable expansion across Europe. At one end of the scale, the firm has striking concepts like the LF-ZC, which Ruch showed me around and explained how its battery tech (with 965km of range), DIRECT4 all-wheel drive system, steer-by-wire and innovative structure will be key to Lexus’s differentiation in the second half of this decade – just a few years from now.

At the other end is the crucial LBX small SUV that’s set to boost Lexus sales, but provide a big challenge for what has been the brand’s biggest selling point – its customer service. Ruch is aware of the challenge that growth poses to a network.

I like the Lexus difference. It’s a brand that’s never wanted to be BMW (unlike others), taking a different path to premium. And it’s all the better for it.

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