In the 1970s and 1980s, the idea of "luxury Japanese cars" was still unfamiliar to Americans. However, just a decade later, Americans had to change their perception of manufacturers from the "land of the rising sun."


Lexus: A New Star

At Toyota, Chairman Eiji Toyoda and other top leaders decided in a closed meeting in 1983 that Toyota had to produce a world-class luxury car. In the fall of 1984, a project called F1 was launched in a successful manner. The project included two years of research on target customer groups and major distributors in the US market, as well as research on the American lifestyle and car preferences.

A Tribute to Lexus Founder Eiji ToyodaEiji Toyoda – the “founder” of Lexus brand

By January 1988, the name Lexus with the L series officially debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show. In a series of international auto shows in the following year, the reputation of a luxury brand of Toyota still spread like wildfire.

In 1988, after a thorough selection process, Toyota established its own distribution system for the Lexus brand, consisting of 80 first-class dealerships, one of which was located in Columbus, Ohio. The LS400, the first Lexus introduced at the North American Auto Show in 1989, hit the market in September of that year with sales of 3,000 units in the first month alone.

In its first year in 1990, Lexus sold 60,000 units, surpassing Toyota’s target by 3,000 units. In the early days, Lexus faced obstacles when Lexis, a news agency, sued Toyota over the name Lexus, which was similar to their name. The lawsuit ended with a victory for Lexus. Several other controversies surrounding inconsistent quality issues, but Lexus turned the disadvantage into an advantage.

Lexus achieves great success in the USLexus achieves great success in the US

By 1991, Lexus had become the top-selling imported luxury brand in the US, selling over 70,000 units per year, far surpassing Mercedes and BMW. With increasing sales figures, Lexus constantly set new records. In 2000, one year after its 10th anniversary, Lexus became the best-selling luxury brand in the US. Lexus has set new standards for quality and customer service, ranking at the top of the J.D. Power and Associates annual surveys for the past decade.

In this way, Lexus expanded its production line to include various types of cars, from small-sized ES and IS to medium-sized LS and sporty models. In addition, there is the RX crossover, the first Lexus produced in the US, and larger traditional SUVs such as the LX and GX. Recently, Lexus has “hybridized” some of its models. Lexus is also the first car manufacturer to introduce pre-sales vehicle management programs in the world.

Infiniti: The Rocky Road

After years of research and planning, Nissan opened its first 51 Infiniti dealerships in the US in November 1989, about one month before the Infiniti Q45 was officially introduced at the North American Auto Show.

Infiniti Q45 advertisement in 1990Infiniti Q45 advertisement in 1990

The Infiniti brand was introduced to the American people in an advertising campaign that still leaves an impression today, as the promoted images are only scenes of windy roads with trees and rocks. While the meaning of the advertisement is the harsh business environment that Infiniti will have to face, Americans in their casual conversations humorously refer to an Infiniti as selling rocks and trees, not cars.

After that impressive advertising campaign, the Infiniti Q45 was immediately praised by the press for its perfect combination of power, luxury, and breakthrough design in a car. At the same time, the Lexus LS 400 was considered a copycat of a Mercedes-Benz. Along with the Q45, Infiniti also introduced a luxurious and powerful coupe, the M30, at a more affordable price. Like Acura and Lexus, Infiniti immediately achieved success in sales figures and set new standards for quality and popularity according to the J.D. Power magazine’s surveys.

However, since Nissan fell into financial crisis, Infiniti began to lose its direction. The redesigned Q45 lost its sharp lines and sporty style that it initially had. Other models, especially cheaper models, lost the original power-oriented direction of Infiniti.

But those crises were ultimately resolved under the astute management of Carlos Ghosn, known as the resurrected man in the auto industry. He instructed the design department to completely redesign both Infiniti and Nissan, starting with the Infiniti G35. The extremely eye-catching G35 became the most successful car in Infiniti’s history, leading the sales of luxury cars under the Infiniti brand. For every three Infiniti cars sold, one was a G35.

Infiniti G35 - A popular car in the USInfiniti G35 – A popular car in the US

The G35 was followed by the introduction of a series of models with contemporary design, front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, and both high-performance drivetrains. These include the stylish FX SUV, the M45 with a V8 engine, and the V6-powered M35. These cars became the center of attention in the auto magazines from the moment they were introduced to the market in February 2005. The M series marked a milestone in Infiniti’s history as the M45 ranked highest in the list of eight premium mid-sized sports sedans, including BMWs and Mercedes-Benz, according to Car and Driver magazine’s evaluation. For the first time, a Japanese car manufacturer received such high acclaim in the US market.

Along with improving the product portfolio, Infiniti also carried out the second round of upgrading its distribution system. The manufacturer is expanding its global market by expanding to the Middle East, South Korea, Taiwan, China, and Russia.

Today, Japanese cars, trucks, SUVs, and CUVs have become popular across the United States and are present as a major pattern in the automotive market of the world’s largest economy.

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Lam Anh (Trithucthoidai)