A Mirror and a Crystal Ball

At its National Dealer Meeting, Lexus celebrated its first 25 years and plotted the course for a successful future

October 20, 2014
Grand Performance -- Jeff Bracken addresses the Lexus National Dealer Meeting at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. 
As the House Band at the Dolby Theater strummed “Change the World” by Eric Clapton, dealers and associates filed into the home of The Oscars for the 2014 Lexus National Dealer meeting on Wednesday.
 
Two hours later, Lexus Group Vice President and General Manager Jeff Bracken echoed the band.
 
“It takes brave men and women to choose the difficult path,” Bracken said. “But that path can enable those strong enough to walk it—to change the world.”
 
The 2014 meeting fittingly took place in Los Angeles, just a short drive from Lexus national headquarters in Torrance, Calif. Marking the 25th anniversary of the luxury brand, the meeting served as a celebration of the past and a look into the future.
 
There were enticing previews of commercials for the RC and NX, coming to Lexus showrooms within the next two months. There was Akio Toyoda inspiring the crowd with his passionate message. There were plenty of light-hearted moments. But the overall message was clear: Be proud of what Lexus has done in the last 25 years, push to make the next 25 years even better.
 
With Open Arms -- Akio Toyoda celebrated Lexus' rich past and its bright future.

A Rebirth

Toyoda opened the meeting and earned a standing ovation for his heartfelt message.
 
“Welcome to the fulfillment of a dream, a vision, a belief that together we could create something truly meaningful,”  Toyoda said. “And that dream, ladies and gentlemen, is Lexus.”
 
Toyoda praised the dealers and their sales of 4.8 million vehicles over the last 25 years. And yes, that past is glorious, but Toyoda quickly shifted to the future he sees for Lexus.
 
“Although this is an important anniversary for us, in many ways I consider it a kind of rebirth,” he said. “An opportunity to say ‘Ok, now what?’ Or perhaps more importantly, ‘What if?’ What if we really go after the competition? What if we exceed every customer expectation and then some? What if we develop technologies no one has even thought of yet? And what if we make cars that literally take your breath away? To me, Lexus should be a canvas for automotive artistry.”
 
Setting the Stage -- Peggy Turner detailed the surge in buying power among women, minorities and millenials. 


The New Face of the Customer
 
By the time Peggy Turner, Lexus vice president of customer service, took the stage, the past had been applauded. But Turner was there to talk about a present and future in which the brand’s customer base is more diverse in ethnicity, age and gender.
 
“Women, diverse markets and younger buyers will drive our future business and accelerate all of our earnings,” Turner said. “But not until we all understand the power they have and adapt to the differences in how they want to do business.”
 
Turner detailed some obstacles Lexus dealers are facing in winning over these groups, citing a J.D. Power survey that showed Lexus comes up short with women in the categories of relationships, communication and facility.
 
“We have to strengthen our relationship with our guests,” she said. “To do that, we have to pay more attention to details. And always keep in mind: One size doesn’t fit all. I can’t stress that enough.”
 
Two Channels -- Bob Carter (above) and Kaz Ohara talked passionately about Lexus' two brand channels. 


Double-Edged Sword
 
TMS President Kaz Ohara talked about Lexus’ two brand channels: luxury and performance. Of course, the luxury brand–with vehicles like the ES, LS and RX–has defined Lexus through the years. But the performance brand–headlined by the NX Turbo and RC Coupe–are redefining the Lexus image.
 
But Ohara was steadfast about one important point.

“No matter which channel, luxury or performance, our focus will always be on exceeding our customers’ expectations,” he said.
 
Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations, said products like the RC F are  just continuing Lexus’ sometimes underappreciated history of exhilarating vehicles.
 
“Lexus has been pushing the boundaries of performance right from the start,” he said. “And our next generation of high-performance products is pushing the brand even faster and more furious. With the help of our Lexus engineers, Akio Toyoda’s passion and commitment for drop-dead gorgeous designs, as well as his need for speed, have come to life. And our customers are the beneficiaries.”
 
The Next 25 -- Jeff Bracken closed the meeting with an inspiring vision of the future. 


Going Forward
 
In the end, Bracken left the dealers with something they and Lexus are used to: high expectations.
 
“We’re not just making and selling cars,” Bracken said. “What Lexus has done over the last 25 years, what we will do over the next 25, is going to be reflected in the world our children and our children’s children inherit. And we intend to leave a legacy that leads to a better world.”
 
By Dan Nied

 

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