By on July 20, 2007

bellevue.jpgAs one of our regular commentators recently pointed out, Lexus owes much of its success to their dealer experience. The recently opened Newport Lexus in Newport Beach, California raised the luxury automaker's retail game to the next level. Designed and built by by Sauers Construction Inc., the $73m pleasure dome offers customers a putting green, game room, multiple lounges with giant-screen TVs, restroom stalls with smaller (though plasma TVs), wireless Internet, executive workroom, Wolfgang Puck cafe and Tommy Bahama boutique. Oh, and cars. The only thing Newport doesn't have is an attractive building. In fact, the Seattle Times coverage of the refurbished Lexus of Bellevue dealership confirms the trend: bland, monolithic surfaces adorning large pedestrian shapes. While Lexus' "L-Finesse" design language is moving their cars away from cod-Mercedes shapes, the Japanese automaker's dealership architecture remains heavily influenced by parking garages, government buildings and maximum security prisons.   

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19 Comments on “Lexus’ Dealership Architecture Sucks...”

  • avatar

    Puts me in mind of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI headquarters building.

    Is my ECU building a file on me?

  • avatar

    “bland, monolithic surfaces adorning large pedestrian shapes.” This is appropriate for a Lexus dealer since their products are so incredibly boring. In fact, Toyota could drop the names from all their US vehicles and put “Small Car,” “Medium Car,” “Truck” instead. Their buyers would probably prefer this also.

  • avatar

    Who cares what the building looks like? I want good service from a dealer, not some fancy building. A fancy building just means higher cap costs which means less discounts on the car and higher prices in parts and service.

  • avatar

    ldbricker: Who cares what the building looks like? Rather than attempt a dissertation on the importance of interior and exterior architecture on human psychology, let's just say that a dealership's building is a hugely important part of branding (literally). To paraphrase Vince Lombardi, when you're a luxury brand, branding isn't everything. It's the only thing.

  • avatar

    My Lexus dealer provides “top” service and is represented by respectful and courteous people. I could not ask for anything more.

    Besides, I am too busy to spend my time at a car dealer for recreation or dinning purposes.

    If I want to enjoy art appreciation, I go to a museum. If I want a lube, filter and oil change, I go to my Lexus dealer.

  • avatar

    the Japanese automaker’s dealership architecture remains heavily influenced by parking garages,

    Imagine that, a building in which cars are parked that looks like a parking garage.

  • avatar

    I’ve been there. It’s beautiful. It’s very impressive. Has the author been there? I doubt it. I’m not an architect but I know the nicest car dealership I’ve ever been in when I’m in it.

    And let us not forget what is going on within the walls…The $75M pricetag is said to be planned to be paid off in 5 years!! They must be doing something right in there. No matter what anyone says, Lexus invented the idea of acutually making an effort to make the experience positive..the fact that other companies are now doing it, and maybe even doing it better than Lexus is a win/win for carbuyers, nothing bad about it.

  • avatar

    Wow, that’s even uglier than Hummer dealerships. Even Jiffy Lube has better looking buildings. They should turn it into a used Volvo dealer; large, square, bland cars at a large, square, bland dealership.

    miked, people don’t go to dimly lit garages that smell of urine to buy luxury cars.

    Steve_K; I like it. Small car, hehe.

    Oh, and the link for ‘bland’ in the article brings up and ad for the ’08 Escape. Hilarious.

  • avatar

    You should see the European Smart Car dealership, um, buildings. A tube-o-cars motif.

  • avatar

    Your kidding, right? Newport Lexus has to be one of the most beautiful dealerships in the country. I purchased my car there and it makes Fletcher Jone’s Mercedes (about a block away) look like a Chevy dealership.

    While having my car washed (free of course) I’ve noticed many a tour of the place going on. The service department has all ’state of the art’ equipment.

    Either the person who wrote this trash is blind or has never been there. Funny though, I’ve noticed a real ‘hate’ attitude toward Lexus products by the various reviewers. But that’s OK cause the truth always comes out in the end and those folks end up with egg on their faces and have no creditability.

  • avatar
    Bill E. Bobb


    And you’ll be happy to shell out $350 for a $75 minor service…for the “free” espresso & WiFi.

  • avatar

    Ummm, RF is speaking about the exterior architecture. I’m sure the interior is terrific, but I have to agree that the exterior is dreadful, especially the Bellevue dealership. We have much nicer looking Mazda and Toyota dealerships in my area.

    Regrettably, these buildings are examples of typical suburban sprawl architecture…. set back from the road to accommodate parking, a complete focus on the private (inner) realm, and an utter disregard for the public realm in which they are situated.

    Read James Howard Kunstler’s “Geography of Nowhere” for a terrific rant on suburban architecture.

  • avatar

    our lexus dealer, Johnson Lexus (raleigh, NC) is rather old for a lexus dealer… and it’s gorgeous. Sort of unoriginal outside, but holy bruce, you could eat off of the floor of the service department.

    Plus they have an M5, C55, M3, Evo MR, and SLK32 AMG in their used lot now.

  • avatar

    I agree that it looks like a parking garage. Would it have any affect on my perception of the brand or the probability of buying from said dealership? No way. But then again, I sleep on a futon and drive a stripper Corolla.

  • avatar

    I suppose for some the “psychology” of architecture is important. Such shallowness is lamentable. As long as a facility is clean and kept up and suitable to the intended purpose what difference does anything else make? I ask that from the perspective of well rounded, properly adjusted, non-shallow individuals.

    I still contend that multi-million dollar more expensive facade equates to higher costs to the users of the facility. A set ROI is going to be expected and if the cost is double then the charges are going to have to be double to make the ROI.

    As long as the customer experience (cleanliness, friendliness, quality etc.) is equal, who (should I include in their right mind?) cares about the building? I guess those who do are the same ones who judge people based solely on their physical appearance.

  • avatar

    ldbricker: Perhaps you should consider the importance of architecture to various enterprises, including (but not limited) to organized religion. In fact, even if you don't consider architecture's impact on your psychology, it's still there. In some cases, it's like Muzak. In others, such as the Vietnam Memorial, it's like a moving piece of music. One could say an appreciation of architecture is a sign of intellectual depth, but I couldn't possibly comment. 

  • avatar


    It is the precicely the impact of architecture on our psyche that explains why the plans and proposals for rebuilding the WTC site are so contentious. Whether you think it is shallow or not, architecture says something about who we want to be, and what the places we inhabit are like. I suspect even you would be revolted if a tilt-up concrete Costco were be built at the WTC site, even if it is perfectly suited to the purpose.

    Comparing an appreciation of architecture to judging people based on physical appearance is a strawman argument, not worthy of response.

    I guess you’ve never travelled to Europe and marveled at the architecture. You probably think your local big box outlet store is every bit as worthwhile as the amazing York Minster, or the Louvre, or Westminster Abbey, or the Capitol building in DC. Maybe you even think it more so, as it is indisputably more efficient at what it does. If so, I feel sorry for you.

  • avatar

    To paraphrase Vince Lombardi, when you’re a luxury brand, branding isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.

    What a silly statement. Everything and the only thing is the SAME thing! If branding is the “only” thing, then it also automatically falls into the category of “everything”.

    One could say an appreciation of architecture is a sign of intellectual depth, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

    Let’s think a bit deeper on the architecture of Bellevue Lexus, shall we? It mirrors the architecture of a vast majority of buildings in North America. Check. It blends in very well to surrounding buildings. Check. It feels like it “belongs” in your average US landscape. Check.

    See a pattern? My strong guess is that that the exterior of Lexus Bellevue was designed like that *on purpose* to look “American” on the outside.

    Ever seen Lexus dealerships in Japan? They look completely different from most US Lexus dealers.

    You may not consider this possibility, but if Lexus US dealers had the same exterior architecture as Lexus of Japan dealers, some customers might actually find it odd and could feel alienated by it.

  • avatar

    Actually I’ve toured Europe and the architecture is beautiful. That isn’t a car dealership however. Neither is the WTC a car dealership. I don’t need or want the structure housing my car dealership, my furniture store, my grocer, my mechanic or anything else to be grandiose. That is just an invitation to artificially inflated prices. Apparently the concept that architecture is important for the Louvre, Notre Dame and similar places but not for a car dealership is too difficult to comprehend. Cleanliness and good service, without the inflated prices of exotic architecture, are what is important at the car dealership.

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