Brand consultancy Enterprise IG was tasked with localising the Japanese prototype for the South African environment. True to the brand standards of Lexus, the dealerships are designed to impart a feeling of luxury, class and sophistication with undertones of an upper end hotel where superior service is paramount and personal attention the primary objective.
The unveiling of the premium brand's newest home in northern Johannesburg coincides with the repositioning of the Lexus brand through the expansion of the premium vehicle brand's portfolio. This is the first time that Lexus dealerships will stand apart from Toyota retailers and forms an integral part of the brand's relaunch in South Africa, said Brian Hastie, senior manager of Lexus South Africa. Previously, Lexus cars were only available at selected stores-within-stores since 1995. Hastie points out that this sales model failed to convey the premium nature of the brand, and so a relaunch was planned to emphasise its exclusiveness and to create a stronger global presence.
“As part of the relaunch, we introduced a new range of cars, and with it, a new design language known as L-finesse, characterised by simplicity of form and function,” Hastie reveals. Lexus' L-shaped motif is used extensively throughout the design and even layout of the showroom itself.
While retaining the principle look and feel assigned by the original Japanese model, Enterprise IG gave the design a vernacular feel by making use of luxury materials and finishes like Zimbabwean granite and African teak, maintaining the “Lexus experience”.
“The end result is a clean space where the vehicle is the focus,” says Terri-Lynn Matthyser, Creative Director for Enterprise IG; “a minimalist environment that serves as a backdrop to the car and does not detract from the central point of focus.”
As a dealership, Matthyser and colleague Faan Nel point out, it is utterly unique. “No other vehicle showroom displays such fine attention to detail,” they say proudly. Indeed, more than a dealership, Lexus presents a matchless buying experience, where special touches like the soothing strains of classical music and a richly furnished, wi-fi equipped visitor's lounge - complete with art displays, DStv and a coffee-making station that would turn the Italians green with envy – transform selecting a vehicle into a multi-sensory experience.
"We wanted customers to experience a touch of glamour and a sense of occasion similar to what they would have arriving at a five-star hotel," said Hastie.
The showroom is spacious, the 3600 square metre area limited to just six cars so that clients have ample room to admire the vehicles and experience their features. An illuminated Hero Bay provides a designated area to showcase the latest models, while the more prestigious models are located in an intimate, leather-paneled corner of the showroom.
Subtle design cues distinguish the pre-owned car showroom from the primary sales area — primarily the use of matt, rather than high-gloss tiles.
Apart from the restrooms, there's also an indoor Zen garden, a children's play area, and a meeting room that Lexus clients are welcome to use at any time, with a hostess on hand to greet them.
"The brand has witnessed an excellent turnaround in sales success and our new dealerships are well placed to cope with the added responsibility of servicing our growing customer base,” adds Hastie. “Sales have been a success with 1700 vehicles sold during the seven months from July 2006 to January this year, equal to the entire number of units sold in the 10 years since the brand's introduction to South Africa.”