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Lexus creating customer experience centers without cars

Lexus continues to push the boundaries of what a dealership can and should be.


Lexus is creating a new form of interaction with customers in the form of “Brand Experience Spaces.” The first one has been created in Tokyo’s Aoyama district. It opens Friday, August 30th. This is part of Lexus Amazing In Motion endeavor. The idea is that customers will come, browse art and interactive displays and be able to experience the Lexus ownership experience – without driving a Lexus.

Japanese advertisements for many years would translate roughly to “I am Lexus Style.” A photo of a celebrity appropriate to the brand would be shown with the product. For example, Johnny Depp dressed fashionably. This was a way to convey the personality of a brand in a short sentence and one photo. This concept is expanded now and Lexus will invite people to come and experience the Lexus brand in these spaces.

The spaces will have a café, or full restaurant serving fashionable food. There will be libraries of sorts and also garage type spaces with the company’s example of Lexus style on display. Before you dismiss this idea, be aware that Lexus dealerships have evolved much faster than the competition in the past 10 years. Free food served in a comfortable area (no charge), as well as very luxuriously appointed surroundings are part of most Lexus dealerships now. Valets move the cars, and no expense is spared to make customers happy and comfortable. Loaner vehicles are almost always brand new, and certainly not the lower end of the Lexus model line-up.

How often have you read a US-based automotive journalist write about their visits to dealerships in Japan? Not often. We know because we ready every print publication dedicated to automobiles every month, cover to cover, and have for over a quarter century. We cannot recall having ever read any account of an American scribe writing about what they learned when they visited a Toyota or Lexus dealership in Tokyo. That is a shame since the automotive ownership experience begins in earnest the day a customer visits a dealership.

Dealerships in Japan were pretty sparse. They had little inventory on hand. The space was just too valuable/costly to keep rows of cars available. Rather they had a few cars for display and test drives were rare and short. Customers and salespeople were respectful of one another, and of each other’s time. One interesting fact many don’t know about Tokyo car buying is that to get one’s car one has to first obtain a parking spot. Like we register our cars in the US and require insurance before we do that, Japanese customers have to first obtain an official place to put the car after they buy. Dealers sometimes helped with that, and always asked if the shopper had secured this prior to beginning any form of transaction.

Lexus moving towards the ownership experience in its operations could signal a change to the way the automotive brands operate globally. We will watch and report. New York City and Dubai will be the next locations for these new form of brand locations.