In August 1983, Toyota chairman Eiji Toyoda voiced a dream of his, namely to produce a luxury sedan of world-class standards to be sold internationally. Although Japanese import cars had been on the international market for many years, never had Toyota dared to take on the big boys in the luxury sedan market. Mr. Toyoda intended to challenge the BMW 735i and Mercedes-Benz 420 SE and shake up the luxury sedan world.
450 body prototypes and 900 engine prototypes later the Lexus brand was introduced to the world in January 1989. The revolutionary Lexus LS 400 made its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan and the car world instantly realized that the standard for quality had been raised considerably. How high was the bar of excellence raised? The LS 400 has continually been rated as one of the most reliable vehicles ever built and J.D. Power and Associates has given the LS400 the highest ranking from 1994-2009 among luxury sedans. Turned out when Eiji Toyoda dreamed, people paid attention.
The 4.0 liter V8 engine had 250 horsepower, was capable of reaching a top speed of 160 mph, and did it with amazing ease while providing an extremely quiet ride. The LS 400 had all trimmings of a luxury automobile in the interior including walnut and leather trim and a memory system that controlled the seats, mirrors, steering wheel, and seat belts. Over 300 innovations guaranteed a smooth and uncommonly quiet ride.
The first generation LS 400 was produced through 1994; from 1995-2000 the second generation maintained its hold on the market. A new generation was introduced in 2001 with the LS 430 and the LS 460 hit the market in 2006. Through four generations spanning twenty-one years the Lexus flagship has continually improved and continually raised the bar of excellence that other luxury sedans had to meet.
What is probably most noteworthy about the Lexus line of vehicles is the consistent level of quality in their production. The engineers at Toyota seem to live by the credo that every single vehicle produced in the factories in Tahara, Aichi, Japan must meet the highest standards of quality and craftsmanship. In fact, Toyota served notice to other car makers in 1989 by recalling every single car sold to date, all 8,000 of them, based on two customer complaints about defective wiring. The Lexus reputation for customer service and reliability was established at that time and has been a mainstay of the company ever since.
In August 1983 Mr. Toyoda had a dream, to shake up the luxury sedan world. Without a doubt his dream came true and it all started with the LS 400.