Toyota Motor Corp’s global design leader, Tokuo Fukuichi, has placed its bets on design to be the Japan automaker’s premium brand Lexus edge over its rivals – seeking to trademark the new ‘spindle grille’ signature styling.
Tokuo Fukuichi serves in double duty roles, being not just the global design leader, but also Lexus’ worldwide boss, calling the new design employed by the brand a necessary “shock therapy” in a bid to ascertain a new direction for the previously bland brand image. The 63-year-old Fukuichi believes the drastic turnaround was long overdue, even as the jagged-edged, trapezoid grille has been polarizing both industry rivals and design experts. According to the executive, the new design image will lend the Japanese premium brand a “unique” advantage over the larger German competitors BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz – especially in competitive emerging markets such as China, where there are more customers willing to pay and extra for a model that sets them apart from the crowd.
Fukuichi also believes Lexus on a global level still hasn’t reached “a gold medal winning level” compared to the German top-selling brands and other peers such as Jaguar and Maserati. The executive was taken back by Toyota in 2011 from a subsidiary and while recovering from cancer, “when CEO Akio Toyoda asked me to come back, he told me he wanted to make our cars cool. That meant he thought our cars weren’t sexy,” commented Fukuichi. His credo for Lexus is that while Toyota aimed to please ten out of ten clients, the premium brand will only need to attract one out of those ten to become more successful. “Even polarizing designs, you get used to them after a while,” he ads. He believes that risks need to be taken, much like a movie star playing as a strength what others consider to be a flaw.