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25 Jan 2013 | Text by Julian Kho & Regan Ong, Photos by Siddiq
We caught up with the Chief Engineer of the Lexus LS, Mr Hideki Watanabe, to see what he has to say about his very own product.
The Chief Engineer of the Lexus LS, Mr. Hideki Watanabe, joined Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) in 1981 and is currently the Chief Engineer at Lexus Development Center, Product Planning at TMC in Japan. He has worked on numerous Toyota and Lexus cars and was part of the team that developed the first LS model back in the 1980s. Hence, he's the most suitable person to speak to on the evolution of the model range. We also get first hand answers from Mr. Klaus Redomske, Marketing Director of Borneo Motors Singapore, to find out what Lexus has installed for us in the near future.
Serving as a flagship model in Lexus' lineup, the first Lexus LS was introduced as the premium Japanese marque's debut model in September 1989. Now in its fourth generation, this full-size luxury sedan carries the 'spindle' grill that has been introduced to other models in the Lexus lineup.
SGCM: What does it mean, to you, to drive a Lexus LS?
HW: Since I'm in a position who makes the LS, you'll be getting a very different answer as compared to those who actually drive the car. Everytime I'm in the LS, I'll do a lot of thinking because I want to know how it feels as a passenger. Even when I'm on business trips, I'll make sure I sit at the rear seats because I want to know how it feels. I'm always thinking about how to improve the car. Hence, to me, driving a Lexus LS means working.
SGCM: Then in your very own words, how has the car evolved since the first generation model, since you were part of the team that developed the first LS model in the 80s?
HW: When the first generation LS came out, the technology used in the car wasn't as good as compared to those from the German brands. Ever since those days, we have been using the 7 Series and S-Class as a benchmark. Hence we always have a clear target. I think we were very close to them. But recently, we have differentiated ourselves from them because there's a slight change in the way we think and execute the car as we are doing something that's different from what Lexus normally does.
SGCM: So what was the biggest challenge faced when designing and creating the new Lexus LS?
HW: It's always a challenge when it comes to designing or creating a car. Although this isn't a full model change, we want customers to feel like the LS is ranked as the World's number one car. And to achieve that, I must say the biggest challenge for me was to motivate the engineers.
SGCM: But the 'spindle' grille on the Lexus LS is the biggest yet on a Lexus model, after the GS and the RX. Won't that be considered as a big challenge to have it seamlessly integrated into the frontal part of the car?
HW: We spent a lot of time on the car as the face must be suited for a flagship model. It was a challenge but not a big one as we already had the 'spindle' grille as a theme so we didn't have to spent too much time thinking of a new design theme.
SGCM: This question is for Klaus - what can we expect from Lexus in the near future?
KR: Apart from the new Lexus Gallery that emphasises on anticipatory Japanese hospitality - like our Lexus cars - there's the new Lexus IS, which has just be introduced, and you'll also be hearing more about the ES models. So we have some exciting new products coming, on top of the already launched GS and RX models, which will really help Lexus to grow. This will also mean having a full range of hybrids and F-Sports which will continue to grow. For the IS, we are expecting to attract younger customers, which will enable us to bring more customers to the brand.
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