By Ted Orme
Just after the debut of the first 1990 Lexus LS400 I was in Germany on a Mercedes-Benz introduction, the new SL roadster as I recall. I remember distinctly the contempt a MB engineer had for this latest Japanese “adventure.” He scoffed at the idea of Toyota challenging Deutschland luxury carmakers. “No history, no tradition, no passion,” he snorted.
Well, it didn’t take long for that attitude to change. In ten short years the Lexus brand had grabbed nearly 18 percent of the U.S. luxury market and had become synonymous with the rich and privileged; thus the expression “Lexus lanes” for express toll ways.
About that same time, I also remember a skilled Toyota auto engineer telling me that what he feared most were the Koreans. “They work so hard,” he said. Sure enough, after carving out a growing share of the small and mid-size markets, Hyundai, synonymous with value and economy, took aim at the entry level luxury segment with the 2009 Genesis.