Photo Courtesy of Yummly
Photo Courtesy of Yummly
According to research and marketing firm Kantar Media, automakers spent a record $77.5 million on ads during last year’s Super Bowl. The figure is expected to be approached, if not topped this year. Among the automakers that will be part of the NBC broadcast on Feb. 5 – at a cost of as much as $3.5 million for a 30-second spot – are Volkswagen, Hyundai, Honda, Acura, Chrysler, General Motors and Kia. Companies in the auto category also on the roster include Bridgestone and Cars.com.
Despite the heavy category congestion, Toyota’s upscale division Lexus has opted in for its first Super Bowl with a commercial scheduled to air during the first half of the game. The company will feature its 2013 GS but will also herald eight other new or updated models hitting the road this year.
As a lead-in to the launch of the full spot, Lexus unveiled a 15-second teaser and several supporting spots at a dedicated YouTube site. The company also launched a social media-based trivia game, TweetDrive Engineered by Lexus on NBCSports.com, which ran during the NFL playoffs. Consumers who registered to play had the chance to win a trip to one of NBC Sports’ “premium sports events” in 2012 (excluding the London 2012 games and 2012 French Open).
Big Lead Sports spoke with Brian Smith, Lexus vp-marketing, about the challenges and rewards of being a rookie advertiser on a Super Bowl stage with an audience that should approach 100 million.
Big Lead Sports: When did the company decide to have a commercial during Super Bowl XLVI?
Brian Smith: I can’t give you the exact date. But I’d say at the point when we knew how important 2012 would be to us. With the release of nine new or updated models, we looked at ways to get that message to people. In those discussions, we were saying, ‘How can we do something different for Lexus?’ To really tell the world that not only are we launching new products, but that the brand is shifting to be more passionate with our products, better driving dynamics . . . That there is a movement taking place with Lexus. The Super Bowl last year was watched on TV by more than a 100 million people. So the Super Bowl is, obviously, a premier place to tell the story.
BLS: Was this the first time Lexus had considered a Super Bowl ad?
BS: I’ve been with Lexus for about five years, managing Lexus sales in the U.S. for four years and then last August [becoming] vice-president of marketing. This is the first time we discussed being in the Super Bowl.
BLS: What are you looking to have happen with the commercial: Raise brand awareness for Lexus and/or the 2013 models, drive consumers to Lexus dealers, attract consumers who may not have Lexus on their radar, other, a combination of all or some?
BS: I’d go for all of those. There are really three specific things we talked about. First is clearly to send a message. People have never seen Lexus on Super Bowl Sunday. So some people would say that Lexus is making a statement. The fact that there is a change in our brand is going to be clear, and that it comes through. Second is the launch of the 2013 GS. This is the featured vehicle and really the first of an all-new face of Lexus with a single-grill design. That will be very clear in this ad. Third, that there is a lot more to come. GS is just the first in what will be this onslaught of new models.
BLS: Looking at the car category and the Super Bowl, last year’s game on Fox had more than a dozen automakers and car-related companies, and this year will also have a high volume. How will Lexus stand out?
BS: That validates the great exposure you can get with a Super Bowl ad. Super Bowl ads are different from other high-profile ads. Many people will watch the Super Bowl just for the ads. That puts additional pressure on everybody. But in our case, it is probably a little bit easier. We are not usually in the Super Bowl. If you are in the Super Bowl every year, I can imagine this might be another year where you go, ‘Wow. How do we do something different?’ For Lexus, the ad is going to look different from any traditional ads you’ve seen from Lexus over the last 20 years. So I really believe it makes it a little easier for us to stand out.
BLS: The auto industry recently was in a big slump, which was reflected in the low number of Super Bowl ads from car companies. But the auto category was dominant during Super Bowl XLV and will be strong again during Super Bowl XLVI. What does that say about the auto industry and perhaps the U.S. economy in 2012?
BS: You’d be absolutely right if you’re saying that [the number of Super Bowl ads] is a good indicator of the auto industry and the economy coming back strong. We just came back from the Detroit Auto Show, really the first of the big auto shows of the year. And it’s clear that there is a positive outlook not just on the economy but all of the auto makers. They are focused on new products. That is coming through in the Super Bowl.
BLS: The Lexus commercial will run during the first half of the game. Do you have more specific placement details on when it will run? Was that placement a Lexus media planner decision or done in conjunction with NBC to keep car commercials from running back-to-back?
BS: If I knew I would give you something more specific. At this moment, I don’t know. Regarding placement, I can’t speak for NBC, although I can imagine they don’t want to run auto ads from competing companies back-to-back. I do believe that, through our media team, placement was done to be mutually beneficial to spread out the auto ads as much as possible. From our position, we would not like to see our ad follow or being followed by another auto ad.
BLS: Lexus has released a short teaser for the ad. Have you seen the whole commercial?
BS: Oh, yeah! Love it. I believe we will release the entire ad on Jan. 31.
BLS: What was the response to the Lexus TweetDrive activation?
BS: That has been very exciting. One of the things Super Bowl offers is so many ways to do integrated marketing in other areas. Lexus has long been a leader in building a social community and doing more with our social community than most companies. Lexus TweetDrive was a cool way of saying to people, ‘If you’re watching all the NFL playoff games this is a great way to engage with us.’ We don’t have the full results yet because the activation just ended [on Jan. 22], but it was a great way starting in early January to get people interested in our Super Bowl message.
BLS: What are you looking for after the Super Bowl?
BS: We will be involved with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, as we were last year. Lexus will be the official automotive marketing partner of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. It is an exciting way to get our message out. And you’ll see Lexus ads and messages throughout the year related to sports as well as elsewhere.
BLS: Have you made a decision about Super Bowl XLVII? If not, what would confirm your decision to do it or not: GS sales, response to the commercial or something else?
BS: Obviously, we want our Super Bowl XLVI ad to be a big success. But the issue of whether we do another Super Bowl or not is really tied to where our brand is and what the message is that we want to get out. This is an unusual year for us with so many major things coming. Next year, if we again have that kind of news, we would consider it. But if is just to be in the Super Bowl every year, I doubt it.
BLS: You are based in Torrance, California. Are you OK with having the first Lexus ad run during a Super Bowl featuring two East Coast teams?
BS: [Laughs.] And also I grew up in the Bay Area and still root for the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders. So speaking strictly from a personal standpoint, the answer is no! But speaking for Lexus, we expect the game to have a huge audience. So having the New York Giants and New England Patriots from that standpoint is fine.
Courtesy of BigLeadSports
Also released were 19″ forged aluminum wheels and a complete sports suspension:
As to be expected, TRD parts are not cheap (set of four wheels: $6,574 USD), but I can’t help but be impressed with how well the parts integrate with the overall look of the GS. At this time, North American availability is unknown.
Courtesy of LexusEnthusiast
[[posterous-content:pid___0]]I talked with Calty design manager Ian Cartabiano at the Detroit auto show, and he told me this is his favorite angle of the concept:
Building on an earlier video featuring the Calty designers talking about the Lexus LF-LC, here’s another video interview with the team, which includes some previously unseen footage of the concept:
Between this photo and the video above, I can understand why — the way the leather curves and wraps around the center console is difficult to capture from any other angle, and it stands out as a real design highlight:
With limited passenger-side access, this design may not be entirely functional, but it sure is beautiful.
Courtesy of LexusEnthusiast
Courtesy of Lexus
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In an incredible turn of events, I was invited to be part of the team as a co-driver, and was strapped into the passenger seat of the LX as Joe battled through for his first place finish earlier today — even hours later, I’m still riding the aftershocks of my hour-long off-road experience.
It was the debut weekend for Joe’s new LX race truck, and some last minute issues filled the weekend with deep adversity and good fortune — here’s what Joe had to say right after the race:
[The LX] is pretty fast. This thing is pretty fast. We are getting closer and I tweaked the shocks a little bit. I bent my rear trailing link and it looked like a U-shape yesterday and I know I bent this one. I had to go as fast as I could go. It was a very clean race and that’s what you ask for and hope for…It’s this stock class; you never know what is going to happen. [JT Grey] did not have a very good year last year and we’re hoping to redeem ourselves this year.
Once I have time to collect my thoughts, I’ll have the full story for you from start to finish, including plenty of photos and even some video from inside the LX
Courtesy of LexusEnthusiast
In response to a recent Facebook fan poll, Lexus has put together a video featuring race car driver Scott Pruett talking about the new GS 350′s driving performance:
Scott was one of the drivers offering GS F Sport hotlaps at SEMA, and was clearly impressed with the way the sedan performed —
Courtesy of LexusEnthusiast
Lexus Enform, as veteran Lexus owners know, is Lexus’ telematics technology—a collection of services that allow the vehicle to communicate with a 24/7 response center (Safety Connect), get directions from a live representative (Destination Assist), and plan itineraries and organize points of interest in conjunction with a desktop computer (eDestination).
This new version, however, offers a suite of mobile apps—each appropriate to automotive travel—that essentially equips 2013 GS owners with online access via their cars.
“We now have a separate channel for incoming and outbound data between the vehicle and the Internet, via the driver’s smartphone,” says Paul Williamsen, National Manager of the Lexus College. “When we launch the GS, we anticipate seven apps for online connectivity, with a potential in the future of up to 18.”
So which seven apps can drivers with the next-generation Lexus Enform system use in their vehicles?
Bing: Use Microsoft’s web-search engine to look up points of interest such as restaurants, landmarks, and businesses. Bing can be voice-activated.
iHeartRadio: Access more than 750 AM and FM radio stations around the U.S., including commercial-free stations and artist-hosted stations. iHeartRadio can also be voice-activated.
MovieTickets.com: Find movie times for local theaters, as well as ratings, reviews, and plot summaries, and purchase tickets online for 150 theater chains, including AMC Theaters. The MovieTickets.com app can be voice-activated.
Yelp: Access Yelp, the portal to crowd-sourced reviews of businesses like restaurants, hotels, stores, and more.
PANDORA®: The popular web-based streaming music service “learns” what you like, and creates playlists tailored to your tastes from its library of more than 700,000 songs. PANDORA can be voice-activated.
Facebook Places: If you already use Facebook Places, then you know how it allows you to check in from an address/locale, which alerts your Facebook friends to your whereabouts.
OpenTable: Search for restaurants by time, date, cuisine, and price range, and make real-time reservations at more than 200,000 restaurants nationwide. Also, rewards points are offered that can be redeemed at member restaurants. OpenTable can be voice-activated.
These in-car apps—although controlled on the available navigation screen or, where applicable, via voice activation—essentially run off your own smartphone (carrier charges and restrictions may apply). To use them in the car, drivers must download the latest Lexus Enform app to a compatible smartphone (iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry models work) and register. They’ll also need to sync their phones with their 2013 GS via Bluetooth.
Related: Tips for connecting your phone to Bluetooth
Note that a complimentary, one-year Lexus Enform trial is included with the purchase of the 2013 GS; after one year, access-charges apply (with the exception of PANDORA, which remains complimentary, although carrier charges may apply depending on your usage and phone plan). Also note that vehicles equipped with the first-generation Lexus Enform system cannot be updated to the newest version.
The next-generation Lexus Enform will also be available with the 2013 Lexus LX, although not with a 12.3-inch display screen.
Courtesy of LexusMagazine
this huge automotive tradeshow back in November of 2006. It’s four days long and requires lots of walking. Normally I’m a pretty energetic guy, but for some reason I was having a really hard time getting around. I was only 37. Healthy and fit. I run competitively and go mountain biking, but all of a sudden it was like I had zero energy.
Bottom line: If I was to have any chance of living, I needed to get chemotherapy and radiation. Fortunately, I came across Cancer Treatment Centers of America, a talented organization that specializes in cancer. So that’s where I decided to go.
I took time off from my job working as a factory test driver for Toyota and Lexus and started treatment on New Year’s Day. For the next four months I had chemotherapy every other week, and then a whole month of radiation.
I wasn’t doing so hot. Crazy things go through your mind. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and say to myself, Am I really going to make it to see next year?
But I’m very driven and focused. As a professional driver, you obviously have to be that way. You’ve got to get to the finish. You have no choice. My wife was a fantastic caregiver, and my son too. You really can’t do it alone. Eventually I started to have about three good days every two weeks.
By November, the doctors cleared me. They did all the scans. All the tests. But it didn’t really hit me until later that month when I was driving 70 mph through the desert in the middle of the night, racing on a team in Mexico’s Baja 1000. I thought, if I’m racing in one of the toughest off-road races in the world, I must be okay. It was like a slap in the face. I really did it. I beat cancer.
I loved my job, but life is short and I decided it was time to do my own thing. So I opened a consulting company, JT Grey Performance Driving, and I started building my own racing team.
I talked with Cancer Treatment Centers of America and Lexus, and they both jumped on board as team sponsors. We set out to build a phenomenal, race-ready Lexus LX 570, and in June 2009 we raced in the Baja 500, also one of the most dangerous off-road races in the world. It was the first time Lexus had ever been involved in off-road racing. And we won!
At first, some people thought a luxury SUV doesn’t belong in off-road racing. But we’ve changed their minds. We’re still winning races and have a good shot at the off-road championship.
Along the way, I’ve realized there are so many similarities between off-road racing and beating cancer. Off-road racing is extreme. There’s stuff being thrown at you constantly. You can’t make it without the help of your pit crew, and you’ve got to take the wheel and take control even while everything around you is falling apart.
Beating cancer actually made me a better driver. I’m more driven and focused now than ever before. And I’m out to prove that I have the endurance to win.
Courtesy of LexusDriversMagazine
Ford, which moved to the third position from No. 5, is at 47.1 percent brand loyalty. In addition, Kia continues to hold the fourth spot from the previous quarter at 46.5 percent, while Honda takes the fifth position at 46.4 percent."Hyundai was No. 1 in loyalty for the past two quarters thanks to its strong redesigns, attractive value and the struggles of the Japanese brands with safety perception and supply issues," said Akshay Anand, market intelligence Web analyst for kbb.com. "However, Toyota has done a laudable job overcoming these issues, introducing programs such as 'Toyota Care,' while getting its supply back online. The redesign of its flagship, the 2012 Toyota Camry, also helped drive interest to the brand and retain owners."After a brief dip, Honda jumped back into the top five with Subaru falling to No. 6 from No. 3 in the previous quarter. Honda's reappearance among the top five can be attributed to the pushed-up Civic refresh, the new CR-V redesign and resolved supply problems.Piggybacking on Toyota's success, Lexus is represented as the top luxury brand on the brand loyalty list at position eight, with Audi at No. 9, followed by Mercedes-Benz in the eleventh position."All in all, there are positive trends for automakers," said Anand. "Traditional leaders like Toyota are leaving the problems in the past and looking toward bright futures, while new players such as Hyundai, Kia and Audi remain forces to be reckoned with in the American automotive industry."Kelley Blue Book Market Intelligence examines brand loyalty while consumers are still in the shopping phase. For this analysis, loyalty is defined as owners of the brand who are currently shopping the same brand for their next vehicle. This includes data from consumers who view a trade-in page or private party page in addition to a new-car page on Kelley Blue Book
Courtesy of MotorwayAmerica
To prove it's headed in a new direction branded by "emotion" and "passion," Lexus gathered journalists at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel along the Pacific coastline between Los Angeles and San Diego to test-drive the 2013 Lexus GS on a route across the SoCal freeways, along the coast, and over mountain roads. The six-cylinder midrange luxury sedan will greet showrooms in three primary setups--the standard 350, the 450h hybrid version, and a tuned F Sport for the biggest performance fans.
Lexus has never been interested in the fins, vents, and flashy exhaust pipes of some performance cars, so much of the 2013 GS body design remains simple and easily identified as a conservative Lexus. But, taking a page from its ridiculous king of the line, the Lexus LFA, the GS greets you with a dual, up/down grille--with its underneath layer sporting three angled scoops.
The interior features include that familiar Lexus mix of leather and wood trim. The hybrid model throws in that little extra piece of "green" flair by accenting its doors panels and dash with bamboo. But it's technology that really dominates the experience of sitting in a GS. Lexus introduced a center console mouse/joystick device in its 2011 models, allowing drivers or passengers to guide a cursor through onscreen menus while the car is in motion--though some attention-rich functions are suspended when the wheels are in motion.
Previous models set the joystick where the shifter stick would be "on the floor" of most car designs, with a click button on both the right and left side of its pedestal. The 2013 GS removes those buttons and allows a simple downward push of the joystick to click onscreen selections.
Another big debut is the center dashboard's 12.3-inch-wide screen, the industry's largest such display. The extra visual space allows Lexus to combine elements that other screens can't handle, such as a guidance map and complete menus or a directions list and audio options. To take advantage of the size increase, Lexus also improved and enriched its map software, providing finer route guidance details, more destination names, and clearer dimension highlighting to help guide your eye en route.
Once the GS was set free along the various Lexus-approved driving routes, its 2013 improvements came to the foreground.
By focusing on a mix of lighter refined materials, engineers increased body rigidity by a reported 14 percent without adding an ounce to the vehicle's overall weight of 3,800 pounds. Add that tightened stiffness to a new multilink rear suspension creating four-wheel-steering, improved traction control, and optional all-wheel drive, and you have a standard-issue V6 GS that confidently goes where you point its nose. The 350 power plant is a 3.5-liter, 306-hp engine harnessed by a six-speed automatic, serving up fuel economy of 19/28 mpg.
The hybrid GS 450h combines the V6 with an electric motor to produce 338 hp with a maxed-out mpg of 29/34. That electric motor is mounted above the back axle for weight distribution, so the GS 450h models are available in rear-drive exclusively.
However, for an eager driver, the F Sport setup is the most attractive. Stylized with the now-familiar F badge and including 19-inch wheels, it also has huge 14-inch front brake rotors, tightened-up suspension, and a variable gear ratio steering system. The F Sport is the only model in the line to include the Lexus Dynamic Handling System, which turns the rear wheels slightly to improve bite and reduce understeer.
As Lexus executives there stayed on message by stressing themes of newly found "passion," the F Sport proved the most worthy recipient of that expressive noun. On its multiple laps around a test track set up at the former El Torro Marine Base (current home of the U.S. variant of "Top Gear") the F Sport provided more raw excitement than either the 2011 Mercedes Benz C350 or the 2011 BMW 535i on hand for direction comparison. It's not often a Lexus will let you drive hot enough to leave a smell of simmering rubber as you de-car, but the GS F Sport had all sniffing happily as they hopped out of the driver's seat.
The final take on the 2013 GS reports a much improved driving experience and easily the third best performing car in the Lexus line--behind the IS F and the celestial LFA. If designers wanted to introduce more "emotion" and enjoyment into this car, mission accomplished. But, a little more outward flair and cosmetic design spicing might further distinguish the model for drivers reconsidering the performance capabilities of Lexus.
Courtesy of CNET
From out of nowhere, a Lexus LFA roadster has appeared during a D1GP Drift demonstration at the Tokyo Auto Salon — here’s a couple more photos:
Here’s a close-up of the interior, which clearly shows that the roll-bar is made out of carbon fiber:
At this point, there’s no details at all, but judging from the factory-level finish and integration, the carbon fiber roll-bar, and the pure cost of any LFA project car, I doubt the full story will stay a secret for long.
Courtesy of LexusEnthusiast
This intriguing project, which began, design-wise, in August 2010, was entrusted to Lexus’ Calty design studio, the same group that brought you the CT Hybrid’s concept and many others. There’s a talented team behind this vehicle, and two of its key designers, Edward Lee, senior creative designer for the exterior, and Ben Chang, senior designer for the interior, were more than happy to share some concept-creation insights with Lexus fans:
Lexus: We know that Calty is pretty familiar with the Lexus concept work, but Edward, weren’t you also one of the LF-Ch designers?
Edward: That’s correct, I was the interior designer for the LF-Ch, which became the CT. This time I designed the exterior of the LF-LC coupe.
Tell us about the project’s objectives—what’s been the overall design mission?
Edward: Basically, the goal was to design a luxury sport coupe that shows Lexus’ future L-finesse design language. We also aimed to spark strong interest in a new emotional and expressive Lexus design.
This being a new concept vehicle, did you take any design cues from current Lexus production models?
Edward: As far as cues go, we integrated a new interpretation of the spindle grill—we wanted to be consistent there but refine the evolving design identity. But as far as the rest of the car, we were challenged to be as original as possible, so although we implemented the spindle grille, everything else is brand new, and we wanted to execute something absolutely fresh.
Ben: The same goes for the interior. The contrast in the design language is completely new, sort of a new design philosophy.
With the early CT prototype, being a hybrid, the design team took some inspiration from natural forms. What would you say are your inspirations for this new vehicle?
Edward: We also drew from natural forms for this car, but what’s completely new is that we took a totally different approach with the proportions, and even the structure and the architecture of the car, which really shows that natural-form language we’re going for. Before we even started the car’s design, we took thin pieces of acrylic and bent them over different shapes to create these really interesting surfaces from one big surface.
We then took the same approach when designing the car’s exterior—it really feels like it’s designed from one piece of material, but you also have these sharp, precise lines that control the surface direction, tension, and dynamics. The surfaces flow freely within the lines—we call this “fluid precision.”
Lexus fans will now get a good look at the exterior, mostly via photos, but what are some intriguing details that we may not notice at first but should look for?
Ben: For the interior, there’s this unique feature with the center display. We have two 12.3-inch screens that are bonded together and face the driver and the front passenger. It’s executed so you feel like you’re seeing a really huge screen instead of two, and it’s like a beautiful sculpture.
Edward: As for the exterior, I’d like to draw focus first to the bold proportion of the car, then the flowing surfaces. It’s a completely new surface execution that is both expressive and precise. Finally, one area that highlights our intent is the front corner.
If you look at the headlamp areas, there are these Lexus brand identity “L” shapes, which are the daytime running lights. They draw your eyes into the three main lamps, then get washed out slowly as you descend into the fog lamps. This is “motion with technology”—an expressiveness intended to really provoke emotion when people look at this area of the car.
If a Lexus owner—somebody who knows Lexus vehicles well—were to sit down in the concept car driver’s seat for the first time, which interior design elements do you think he or she would be most struck by?
Ben: Well, with the interior, we wanted to do everything with a modern approach, but in an even more artistic way. So when a Lexus driver sits down in the car, they’re going to notice how artful the cabin feels. It’s got a hand-made look, like a master craftsman put it together—but it’s all, of course, supported by the latest technology.
There’s lots of beautiful materials, too—the leather, the suede, the brushed metal trim. We used those materials not in a traditional arrangement; instead we created something futuristic, fresh, and modern.
Can you tell us how the design has evolved—how and where did the car’s look change the most during the process?
Edward: As far as the exterior goes, we started with what you might consider a more elegant approach to the vehicle, but as we advanced forward, we applied a concept called “avant-garde beauty”—a bolder direction with bigger-stroked shapes. We still maintained the beauty aspect of the vehicle, but we really tried to make breakthroughs in the futuristic, technological, and modern sense. The car comes across as both artistic and technologically advanced.
Are there any aspects of this car that you’re personally most proud of?
Ben: This may sound kind of strange, but I’m actually very proud of the exterior, even though I was the interior designer. It turned out amazing. This car’s exterior made me feel very connected to the whole vehicle as I designed the interior.
Edward: Not to just give the ball back to Ben, but a lot inspirational energy was drawn from the interior design. And I have to say, I’m really proud of the team—all the clay modelers, the CAD support, everybody. How we feel really matters with these concept projects. It’s a passion we have, and I really believe that this passion will be evident when this car is revealed.
Courtesy of LexusMagazine