1995 Lexus LS 400. Click image to enlarge
By Bill Vance
The Japanese automobile industry’s initial recovery after the devastation of the Second World War was a pretty modest effort. Their dumpy little cars, often knock-offs of English models like Austin A40s and Hillman Minxes built under licence, were definitely not export-ready.
They worked hard at improving and in the 1960s, companies like Toyota, Honda and Datsun (now Nissan) were confident enough to begin exporting to North America. However, their cars were still barely adequate for our wide open spaces, so their engineers took lots of notes, went back to Japan, and did their homework.
Japanese cars gradually improved and soon cars like the Toyota Corolla, Datsun 510 and Honda Civic were signalling that the Japanese were good students. Their products started to be noted for advanced technology, generous features and competitive prices.
Honda’s 1976 Accord was one car that made Detroit really began to sit up and pay attention. Honda proved that although a car may not he huge, it could still carry many luxury touches. The Accord quickly became a benchmark for the compact family car.
In 1986, Honda took its next step by moving into the entry luxury market with its Legend model. To set it apart from Honda’s economy car image, the company created a new division called Acura to produce the Legend.
The Legend bristled with such technology as an overhead cam, 24-valve, aluminum V6 engine, front-wheel drive, four wheel disc brakes and fully independent suspension. It was competitive with cars like the Cadillac Seville, Saab 9000 and Mercedes-Benz 300E, yet was priced thousands lower.
The stage was now set for the final invasion, the assault that would prove that Japan’s automotive engineering expertise had fully matured. This was the 1990 arrival of the Lexus LS400 from Toyota’s new Lexus division, and the Q45, a product of Nissan’s newly-created Infiniti division.
With the LS400, Toyota aimed to produce a luxury sedan that would not only match, but jump right over marques like Cadillac and Lincoln and target Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Jaguar customers.
To play in this league required the best, because luxury car clients demand the ultimate in technology, performance, appointments and finish. The Lexus LS400 brought all of these to the table, along with a couple of other things: an almost fanatical dedication to owner satisfaction and a more than competitive price.