If you see a Christmas tree moving, it could be a Lexus NX300h. Lexus is bigging on Light Emitting Diodes. Two-lead semiconductors (no more than basic pn-junction diodes really) will release photons of electroluminescence in headlights, daytime running lights, fog lights and rear lamp clusters. They will be in door-handle courtesy lights, up to 90 of them twinkling on the new £29,495-£42,995 crossover exploiting as Lexus puts it, on the brilliance, rapid-action and low-energy benefits of LED technology.
Operate turn flashers on Luxury, F Sport or Premiers, and LEDs will shine your way round the corner. Premiers have a windscreen camera that dips the headlights for oncoming traffic. You are welcomed on approaching an NX 300h (provided you haven’t forgotten the key) with LEDs illuminating door handles and shining on the ground. Lexus doesn’t want you stepping in puddles apparently. At the same time the Remote Touch Interface touch pad will light up in the cabin (where fitted – it’s an option) and footwell LEDs will help you find the pedals. There are LEDs in the rear dome light and map lights, with touch-controlled switches in the headlining.
In short LEDs will be everywhere yet Lexus has every reason to be pleased with itself. It is over 30 years since it was invented against a political imperative. Japan was obliged to limit the number of cars it was exporting to the United States and Europe. The indigenous manufacturers felt so threatened by high-quality Toyotas and Nissans with long warranty times and good radios that their governments had to talk the Japanese round. They pled for voluntary export restraint and the Japanese equivalent of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders gave in. So, thought Toyota, if we are compelled to export fewer cars let’s make them expensive. Big cars at three times the price don’t cost three times as much to make. Premium prices provided more profit. In1986 Honda agreed, launched the Acura, an export version of the Legend and the following year Nissan joined in with the Infiniti. Mazda thought about it, then abandoned its own premium brand, the Amati.
Toyota had to think of a name and Saatchi and Saatchi, appointed to handle marketing, took on image consultants Lippincott and Margulies, which sifted through 219 prospects like Vectre, Verone, Chaparel, Calibre as image consultants do. Alexis became favourite, never mind it was a girl’s name and its association with Alexis Carrington of the soap opera Dynasty seemed to help. The A was dropped and the i replaced with a u. It sounded vaguely de luxe; Toyota denied that it meant “Luxury Exports to the US”. Just before the first cars were sold a database firm, LexisNexis, took out an injunction against it but an appeal court judged than nobody was going to confuse a car with a computer service and Lexus it was. Following an interminable billion dollar advertising campaign the superbly smooth and brilliantly innovative LS400 made its TV debut with champagne glasses stacked on the bonnet with the engine running. All that remained was to invent a logo not too much like Mercedes-Benz or BMW and they were off.
Lexus is now a world-wide premium brand but it still has to remember it lives in a political world. In August it had to reduce its spare parts prices in China by about one-third. China’s National Development and Reform Commission, which regulates trade, complained about exorbitant prices of after-market servicing and spares. What goes round comes round. Ninety LEDs notwithstanding. All Lexuses need now is a fairy on the top.