January 11, 2016 / 6:34 PM / 2 years ago

Toyota bets on Lexus flagship revamp to overcome 'boring' image

2 Min Read

Toyota Motor Corp's Lexus brand logo is displayed at the 44th Tokyo Motor Show in Tokyo, Japan, November 2, 2015.Issei Kato

DETROIT (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp is sprucing up its premium Lexus line with a facelift of its flagship sports coupe for 2017, as the world's largest automaker tries to shake off its reputation for boring designs.

Unveiling the Lexus LC 500 coupe at the Detroit auto show on Monday, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said that the new model featuring the brand's distinct jagged grille, was the company's response to years of public criticism about the brand's uninspired designs.

"I was determined to make sure we became a more emotional brand, and that the words 'boring' and 'Lexus' never showed up in the same sentence," Toyoda told reporters. "This is a brave, new Lexus."

Based on a flowing concept design shown in 2012, the new model features a V8 engine and a new 10-speed transmission system, and will be the brand's first model to use a new, luxury rear-wheel drive platform developed under the company's new shared platform production system.

"We want to make clear the distinction between the Toyota brand and the Lexus brand," Lexus International President Tokuo Fukuichi told Reuters.

"The Toyota brand is the anchor which delivers consistently high quality products to the mass market... Lexus is for drivers who are more discerning about drivability, design and quality," he said, acknowledging that the luxury brand may not have been delivering on those fronts in past years.

Toyoda also said the company plans to market a fuel cell vehicle (FCV) under the Lexus brand "around 2020" as part of its pledge that all of its vehicles would be zero emissions by 2050.

A Lexus FCV would be the second model produced by Toyota which uses hydrogen as a power source, to cut out carbon emissions, following the Mirai launched in late 2014.

Reporting By Naomi Tajitsu and Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Bill Rigby

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