Lexus’ shock therapy sees ‘ugly’ sell

(REUTERS) – Ugly grills? Ever since they came to the market, these ‘Predator’ faces on the Lexus have turned heads.

And that’s the design shock therapy Toyota Motors’ global design chief, Tokuo Fukuichi, is aiming for.

REUTERS REPORTER, JANE LANHEE LEE,

“This jagged-edged, trapezoid grill has upset more than a few. At one shareholder meeting, an angry investor complained that the new Lexus face was giving the brand a bad reputation.”

So what does Toyota’s design guru think about that?

GLOBAL DESIGN CHIEF, TOYOTA MOTORS CORP, TOKUO FUKUICHI,

“They’ll get used to it. What Lexus wants is not just something that’s beautiful. You’ll get bored of that quickly. Hollywood stars are beautiful even if they aren’t perfect proportions. If a hundred beautiful fashion models come out, you don’t remember them. But Hollywood stars have an individual face and it’s unforgettable.”

Fukuichi is no stranger to controversy.

He was the designer behind Toyota’s first generation Previa vans from the late 80s which also caused a storm and was nicknamed the ‘egg van’.

And when the big boss Akio Toyoda decided to shake things up again, he turned to Fukuichi to lead the look.

GLOBAL DESIGN CHIEF, TOYOTA MOTORS CORP, TOKUO FUKUICHI,

“Akio wanted something that speaks to the heart. So I said, ‘in that case, you just can’t follow the trends’. If you do that, there’s no reason to buy a Lexus.”

The unique look he hopes will give Lexus an edge over rivals BMW, Audi and Mercedez Benz – especially in markets like China, where competition is fierce and buyers are happy to throw more money at something that stands out from the crowd.

For now, that approach seems to be working – Lexus’ global sales have grown more than 40 percent since 2010 when the grills quietly started to appear.

Some may call them ugly, but those kinds of numbers make Toyota’s bottom line a lot more easy on the eye.