Lexus Acknowledges Its Enormous Grilles Disgust Buyers

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By Car Brand Experts

Grilles have always been a debatable aspect in automotive design trends; as a badly-crafted front end can ruin an entire car brand. A common criticism of contemporary cars is that they exhibit fierce expressions, with enraged LED headlights flanking a colossal, scowling mouth of a grille, and perhaps no automaker has faced this complaint more than Lexus. Lexus’ current design approach incorporates the “spindle grille,” which has divided buyers since its introduction in the early 2010s. Now, in a discussion with Automotive News, Lexus global design chief Koichi Suga confesses that the grilles will be toned down following customer input.

Suga, while discussing Lexus’ forthcoming design adjustments for its transition to electric vehicles, acknowledged that Lexus market studies revealed the massive, hourglass-shaped grilles of the company’s combustion engine cars have deterred certain consumers, particularly Americans. Though the most controversial of these styles has been the “spindle” design, which features an elaborate diamond weave covering the front of the car (as seen on the RC F above), even the company’s more conventional grille designs remain the predominant feature of its vehicles (such as on the new LX600 introduced this year).

The company’s frontal appearance has faced criticism since the inception of the spindle grille, which marked a significant departure from its previously subtle visual style. It was introduced in an effort to attract younger buyers, but with mixed outcomes. Before retiring in 2018, Lexus VP Jeff Bracken mentioned in an interview regarding the grilles; “I’ll receive calls from some of these owners and they will spend considerable time on the phone with me expressing their disappointment.” As a result, the company is striving to retain the signature look but merge it more seamlessly into the body, through what Lexus terms the “spindle body,” featured in the company’s new RZ plug-in electric vehicle.

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“We aim to retain the spindle shape itself. However, the spindle has always been grounded in the functionality of what’s happening beneath the hood,” Suga stated to AN. With no necessity for radiator cooling and a directive from Toyota’s global design leader to avoid false grilles whenever possible, the new “spindle body” enables Lexus to maintain its brand design while hopefully avoiding as many comparisons to Predator (1987).

“The new spindle implementation is founded on this insight” into customer preferences, Suga added. “We need to strike the right balance,” he remarked. Nonetheless, he also observed that individuals were already likening the redesigned Lexus RX’s front fascia to Darth Vader’s helmet, so this new equilibrium may still not satisfy all luxury shoppers.

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