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27 May 2013 | Text by Julian Kho, Photos by Borneo Motors & Low Fai Ming
We caught up with the General Manager of Brand Management of Lexus Asia Pacific Division to find out more about the rationale behind Lexus' F SPORT range.
In early 2012, when Lexus launched the all new GS model range, it marked the brand's first foray in introducing an F SPORT variant. Since then, an F SPORT variant has been included in all the new Lexus launches, including the RX, the LS and the upcoming IS model range.
This marked a contrast to the brand's earlier offerings of industry leading luxury and refinement, which was why we had to get some answers, or rather understand the rationale and reasons behind Lexus' push into this segment, from Kirk Edmondson, the General Manager of Brand Management of Lexus Asia Pacific Division.
Having been involved in Lexus since the brand's inception in the late 1980s, Kirk is best placed to speak to on the brand's progression in the F SPORT range. Over the last 20 years, he has been involved in numerous Lexus initiatives globally and both in the USA and Europe. In his current role, Kirk leads the Lexus Asia Pacific Marketing team in their efforts to strengthen the Brand in the region while continuing to consult with the Lexus International team in developing the brand around the world.
In a way, Lexus could be one of the best luxury carmakers in the world and truly an elite brand, in that it attracts the best of the best, but also, some say because of the hard-to-crack older buyers' network that surrounds it. Lexus challenges the status quo with the creation of the F SPORT to give itself a chance to break through to the younger and untouched market.
According to Kirk, there was a bit of a shift in attitude within Lexus engineering and the company itself when the IS F was created. The once quiet, humble and understated brand got louder as the people in Lexus identified that the direction - the L-finesse philosophy, spindle grille and a much more aggressive lineup - was what they wanted.
"When the IS F was launched, I had a button that read "What the F?". This epitomised the attitude shift with that car. To me that is what's so exciting about the F SPORT and everything else. It's like this is the side of Lexus you never knew existed because a lot of people will just think that the Japanese are just working hard at their desk and aren't really out there having fun in cars," said Kirk.
SGCM: Was that the reason why F SPORT was created? Simply because Lexus was tired of being understated?
KE: It's because of the importance of getting involved in motorsports and performance. It all started when winning races brought excitement to Japan. At the beginning it takes some crazy and passionate people who will break the rules. This was, in fact, how the original IS F was made. A guy took a chassis to some motor trained guys and started mixing and matching. It's created more from an 'underground rather than above'/ 'behind the curtains' kind of thing. And the good news was it stuck. IS F's Chief Engineer Yukihiko Yaguchi was one of the guys then and it's usually the older guys who can pull it off because they know people from every department.