Colin Moran has a really long and complicated title; he's the Senior Strategist for Product Public Relations and Brand Strategy at Lexus International Strategic Communications. Before this, he had a slightly shorter title at the luxury vehicle division of Japan's Toyota; Lead Brand Strategist, which happened during Lexus' recent rebranding. Before that, he got a Masters in Luxury Brand Management and in Fashion and Luxury Management. Long story short, he knows what he's doing here.
We spoke to Moran about the choices to incorporate fine (not to mention complicated) craftsmanship, the use of the Japanese hospitality doctrine called Omotenashi, and what the heck the new LX570's "L-FINESSE" even means.
When did Lexus decide to incorporate Omotenashi as it’s “doctrine”?
When we set out to reinvent what it meant to build, sell and own the world’s finest automobile, we knew the ownership experience would play a huge role in differentiating our brand in the marketplace.
When we came to market in 1989, owning a luxury vehicle was a far cry from what it’s become today; dealerships could be intimidating, unwelcoming environments, the cars themselves were not known to be super reliable and if your vehicle was being serviced, there was a good chance you would be left to make your own arrangements for a rental car.
From day-one, Lexus applied Omotenashi, the uniquely Japanese way of wholeheartedly looking after guests and anticipating their needs in advance. This was empathy in action. This was a selfless desire to ensure guests enjoyed an experience like no other. This is something we continue to do today. Stated best by current President of Lexus International, Yoshihiro Sawa, “our total commitment to offering genuine, caring hospitality to our guests ensures they receive top service from the bottom of our heart.”
To this day, our ultimate goal is the happiness of our guests. Omotenashi is the key to building long-lasting relationships and earning customers for life.
What are some examples of Omotenashi in the vehicle?
The welcome sequence when approaching the vehicle. Keyless entry, seat and steering position, door handle and interior illumination, and mirror position. Climate Concierge, with infrared sensors, read the body temperature of vehicle occupants and cool and heat the cabin silently in the background, with help from heated and cooled seats and heated steering wheel.
Why all the details that take expert artistry, like the origami pleated leather, the Kiriko glass, and the Art Wood Herringbone?
In an era of bits and bytes, zero’s and one’s, AI and machine learning, I’m glad this “analog” aspect of the brand stood out to you. The human touch is something not readily apparent in a lot of interactions with modern-day products and services and that’s a shame. Customer service comes via online chatbots, the shape a vehicle takes is determined by computer modeling, the role of humanity is being redefined. Incorporating beautiful examples of human creativity and artistry was something we felt deserved to be elevated.
Lexus (and Japan for that matter) has always revered materials; whether from an engineering perspective or from a stylistic one, and details like pleated silk door panels, etched Kiriko glass and art wood are examples of Takumis freely expressing their expertise in a way guests can enjoy, sometimes for the first time in an automobile, in the case of Kiriko glass.
Japan has always been a purveyor of fine crafts and Lexus has chosen to weave the expertise of our culture into our products in more visible ways. We haven’t always been so forthcoming with our Japanese heritage and never before have we so overtly incorporated elements of Japanese craft into our vehicles, let alone built communications around them.
The spindle grille and the lack of enclosure is a new feature—why these details?
When looking at the front of a car, you may have noticed they all have a face. Headlights resemble eyes, grilles form a nose/mouth and sculpted ducts, ledges and creases help define other facial characteristics. The spindle grille is the face of all Lexus vehicles and was designed to establish an iconic appearance that runs throughout our lineup; moreover, one that is highly recognizable on the road. As the Spindle has evolved, it has taken on unique personalities that reflect each model’s individual character.
For example, the grille of LS harnesses and reflects light using 5,032 individual facets that required six months to digitally calibrate and was inspired by the delicate beauty of a spider’s web.
What are the most exciting new features that the LC 500, LS 500 and LX 500 share?
The LC, LS, and LX all reside at the top of their respective categories. They represent the finest collection of design, technology, performance, and safety Lexus knows how to make in the coupe, sedan and LUV set. Sure, these three share gorgeous LED headlights with arrowhead designs, elegant analog clocks mounted prominently amongst their dashes and all tout performance that rivals the best in their competitive set. However, more than individual features, these vehicles all represent the tip of the spear as we strive to create amazing experiences.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.