Lexus Fields Complaints From Longtime Owners Over Spindle Grille
'Some owners will spend 45 minutes to an hour on the phone with me just expressing how disappointed they are,' said Lexus GM Jeff Bracken.
Ever since Lexus garnished every one of its cars with a pinched, Predator-like spindle grille, public reception has been... mixed, to say the least. While the luxury brand's decent sales suggest that at least some of you dig the mouth-full-of-razor-blades look, others haven't been as enamored. For those who find Lexus's signature front ends a little odd looking, over-styled, or downright ugly, bad news: Lexus hears you, but the grille ain't going anywhere.
In a conversation with CarBuzz, Lexus group vice president and general manager Jeff Bracken (in a moment of refreshing candor) spoke of hour-long phone calls with certain Lexus customers, lamenting the company's recent design decisions.
"I'll be very transparent. It's our signature grille. Some of our models have a more expressive signature grille than others," said Bracken. "The folks that look at it as somewhat polarizing would be, for the most part, the folks that have been with us since the beginning. In fact I'll take phone calls from some of these owners and will literally spend 45 minutes to an hour on the phone with me just expressing how disappointed they are."
Despite the impassioned grumbling from some of the brand's most loyal—and let's face it—senior clients, Bracken says the outlandishly-styled front fascias are here to stay, in a bet that the new, more youthful buyers they attract will outnumber the members of the old guard who decide to jump ship.
"It gives me an opportunity to explain why we're going down this path. I understand your concern. It's a very purposeful and strategic move on our part," said Bracken. "If we lose some of our traditional owners it's unsettling for us but won’t preclude us from moving down this path. We hope to gain more [customers] than we lose."
While we're sure the folks at Toyota's luxury arm spent many hours toiling over its current design direction, we couldn't help but think Lexus could've been a hair more purposeful and strategic with the spindle grille's implementation. Aping an idea from Toyota's own 2018 Camry, we think Lexus would have benefited greatly from giving buyers of most models the choice of two different grilles via two different trim packages. A "Sport" trim that includes the full spindle treatment and a more traditional "Luxury" trim for those who prefer to keep their Japanese luxury cars and '80s sci-fi monsters aesthetically separate.
The Lexus exec continues, "Our [previous] image had been that of a producer of high-quality luxury vehicles for years. But that wasn't enough to keep us relevant. It was important that we not only produced high-quality luxury vehicles but also that had to be edgy in terms of styling and cutting-edge technology."
We've contacted Lexus for further comment, even presenting our two-trim, two-grille idea for feedback and will update this story if we get a response. If the next-generation IS or something comes in precisely two distinct flavors of lipstick, you know who to thank.
UPDATE [01/26/2018]: Lexus communications senior manager Nancy Hubbell, who was present during Jeff Bracken's original interview with CarBuzz, told The Drive, "It’s not that Jeff gets calls all the time. It’s that he has received some calls from people. And yes, we do realize that the grille is something that’s usually more appealing to younger customers but our older customers are learning to like it as well."
As for adopting a more Camry-esque approach to grille selection, Hubbell points out that Lexus already does that "to some degree" with its F Sport and hybrid offerings. "Usually we have our internal combustion gas and we have a hybrid and we have an F Sport," said the Lexus spokesperson. "So there are visual differences among all three of those but the grille is one area where the F Sport usually takes a more aggressive stance. And it seems to be working for us because our F Sport buyers are usually younger than the buyers for the hybrids or the regular model."