CREATING THE ALL NEW LEXUS UX: CHIEF ENGINEER CHIKA KAKO ON THE INFLUENCES BEHIND LEXUS’S URBAN SUV
From the outset, the new Lexus UX was destined to be a new and different kind of vehicle. For Chief Engineer Chika Kako and her team the mission was to create a car that expresses Lexus’s development as a modern luxury lifestyle brand, appealing to an urban customer base with sharp contemporary design and a new interpretation of “luxury” that draws on both Japanese and European influences.“In 2017 we launched the LC sports coupe to firmly position Lexus as a visionary and exciting luxury lifestyle brand,” said Kako. “The LS flagship saloon and ES executive saloon consolidated this brand positioning. Now, with the first cars arriving early 2019, it’s the turn of the UX to create amazing experiences and welcome a new kind of customer to the Lexus brand.”The UX’s design was evolved using opinions and preferences voiced by potential customers. Kako explained: “We began research in the USA in 2013, conducting an extensive series of focus groups and home visits with owners of competitor vehicles. We learned from the interviewees that they were underwhelmed by conventional SUV looks. They also told us that they wanted a SUV that drives like hatchback.”
This proved not to be simply a regional attitude: very similar views were expressed by the people Lexus spoke to in Europe, Japan and China as well.
Where the UX’s interior is concerned, Kako’s mission was to generate stronger emotional appeal. To achieve this, the team looked at how individual components such as the instrument panel, seats and trim could be intelligently orchestrated.
“We used the principles of engawa, a Japanese architectural concept where the boundaries between inside and outside are seamlessly connected, and kansei engineering, aiming to create an emotional bond between the customer and the product,” said Kako.
The UX has also been influenced by a particularly European concept of luxury which Kako learned during her time working in Europe – an art de vivre which she describes as enjoyment of valued experiences rather than expensive or extravagant things. She also has a clear view of the kind of customer the UX is designed to appeal to: people who enjoy the busy city life, travel and active leisure pursuits, and who value good design and creativity.
Not simply just another SUV, the new UX has distinctive appeal both in its design and its dynamic performance: “Right from the beginning we set out to give the UX a unique character, a car that embodies solid SUV appeal while inheriting the precise and responsive feel of Lexus. The result is a truly innovative vehicle that handles like a hatchback while delivering elegant performance combined with peace of mind,” said Kako.
The new UX is available to order now with first deliveries to UK customers from March 2019.