By on March 15, 2018

Lexus sales slipped in the United States over the last two years. While overall deliveries remain relatively strong, the Japanese luxury brand saw its annual volume surpassed by Mercedes-Benz in 2013. BMW followed suit in 2017 and the gap only looks to be widening this year. So, what does a high-end nameplate do to lure back customers?

The answer is an obvious one: it starts building boats. It might shock you to learn this, but boats have actually been around since prehistoric times and physical examples have been discovered that are at least 10,000 years old. Meanwhile, most cars aren’t even 100 years old. Basic math proves boats to be the more sustainable product and a sounder investment. Cars had a good run, but autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing services are about to convert driving into a passive and homogeneous experience in a totally hypothetical and undetermined amount of time. Boats will be where it’s at very soon and every automaker will eventually become a sloop manufacturer.

Alright, I’ll stop being a prick (for now). What Lexus is really attempting to do is gussy up its image, endearing itself to the growing legions of super-rich people by providing contemporary yachts — something Mercedes-Benz has done in the past.

The fancy boat market is minuscule and the profit margin isn’t nearly large enough to trump car building at any meaningful volume. Lexus, no doubt, already knows this. But the automaker saw an opportunity to remake itself as a premium lifestyle brand by designing the Lexus Sport Yacht concept — honored by Japan’s “Boat of the Year” committee at the country’s International Boat Show in Yokohama last week.

Now, it has expressed its intent to build a bigger version of the watercraft and put it on sale by 2019. “Based on our amazing experiences in engineering, building, testing and showing the Lexus Sport Yacht concept last year, we’ve decided to take the next bold step of producing an all-new larger yacht that builds on the advanced nature of the concept while adding more comfort and living space,” said Shigeki Tomoyama, executive vice president of Toyota, in a statement. “We plan to start sales in the U.S. in the latter half of 2019, with sales in Japan following in the spring of 2020.”

Planned as a larger 65-foot sport fly-bridge cruiser, the new yacht will have luxury staterooms below deck and entertaining space for up to 15 guests. The boat will also make use of Toyota’s new Mobility Services Platform to provide internet connectivity, security, smart phone integration, and diagnostics.

While we’d like to see Lexus continue its focus on making sport utility vehicles customers can’t say no to (and amping up the performance of some of its sportier models) — without sacrificing that legendary dependability — the boat impulse isn’t a terrible one. Toyota already has marine division and luxury brands seem to sell better the more they distance themselves from the mainstream. As mainstream cars grow in quality, luxury brands have been forced to place a serious emphasis on cutting-edge tech or adding desirability through careful branding.

“Improving the quality of the cars themselves is important, but we also need to present car owners with a dream-like vision of the luxury lifestyle,” Tomoyama explained. “A yacht is a very effective part of that.”

We’re wondering if it will pay off in the long run. Plenty of Lexus shoppers won’t care if the brand is attached to seafaring luxury or not. But if the automaker can tap into more enviable lifestyle accoutrements, there’s a chance people will begin associating the brand with wealth. That could help move everything from the $36,000 NX crossover to the $92,000 LC coupe.


[Images: Toyota Motor Corp.]

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42 Comments on “Ahoy: Lexus Now Focusing on Premium Boat Business...”

  • avatar

    Unbutton your white sport coat when you sit down, pleb.

  • avatar

    It looks like they take their advice from Wall Street. If your core business is not doing that great, diversify into something you have no clue about and this should “make you great again”.

    They currently don’t sell a single car that would appeal to me that’s where their problem lies. After selling boatloads of the LS400 for a decade, I hardly ever see a newish LS. Last week I was driving behind one and because it’s such a rare sight around here I couldn’t believe it and had to pass it and look at the grille to make sure was the LS. I honestly see more exotic cars on the road than the LS4XX.

    • 0 avatar

      Even rarer than the LS (any generation) on the roads these days is the GS (any gen).

      But hey, can’t miss all those FWD Lexus crossovers and the ES on the road.

      • 0 avatar

        GS is a hidden gem and the good depreciation makes it a good used deal in that segment.

      • 0 avatar

        Someone must not not have gotten that memo in my neighborhood. I count 4 new-body GS’s in my subdivision while out walking the dog. Late model IS’s and RX’s are as common as Camry’s though. The real high end money seems to gravitate to Mercedes- S-Class sedans are fairly common.

        What REALLY surprises me, though, is that there are exactly ZERO new Accord’s in the hood. Maybe 1/2 dozen new Camry’s, and as many Civics. Hell, there’s even a new Mazda 6 in one driveway.

  • avatar

    Chip and Misty, out for a three hour cruise on the S.S. Yuppie. “Don’t be silly, Misty. Why would there be Somali pirates this close to Martha’s Vineyard?”

  • avatar

    Lexus is trying to be hip, which is always painful to watch.

    Continue to build excellent cars, take great care of your clients and the wind will eventually turn back your way.

    Boats and sweaters and watches are branding distractions and never look right ten years later.

  • avatar

    Chip is sporting size 10 1/2 Sebago topsiders. A true man ‘o the sea.

  • avatar

    As a sailor, Lexus building the type of powerboats that attract some of the biggest idiots on the water will not convince me to buying a Lexus automobile.

  • avatar

    Dweeb buys boat, takes out his cold-fish, frumpy (yet expensive) clothes wearing domestic partner. Yawn.

    I take the 65′ Bertram with twin 6-71 blown 392 Hemi with some bikini clad beauties on the rear deck. Now that sells boats.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    Where do you stick the fishing pole?

  • avatar

    Not a new idea:

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Another fail, like the terminally weird styling of recent and current Lexus vehicles. You would think that Lexus would have learned from Acura’s bad experience with the “beak” and BMWs experience with Chris Bangle’s “flame surfacing.”

    In the US, at least, powerboats, despite their price, are considered — to use a polite term — “downmarket.” The boaties who constitute Lexus target income demographic own sailboats. And, of course, true “yachties” are above Lexus’s market. Their car market is exotics and semi-exotics like Rolls, Bentley, Maybach.

    • 0 avatar

      Hinckley sells more powerboats than they’ve ever sold sailboats…… Neither of them exactly “downmarket”…

      Most wealthy “yachties” with the cash to spare for a proper sailing yacht, also has a powered runabout or two. Which sees some use. Something the sailing yacht never does, as the people with the money to buy them, are too busy obsessing over making and protecting their money, to have time to use them much. Kind of the same reason the LaFerrari stays tied to the dock, while the downmarket Benz gets driven most of the time.

      • 0 avatar

        Meanwhile, the newest Hinckley is both more elegant and more revolutionary than the S.S. Lexus, which looks like it could have been build by Beneteau or Sea Ray by comparison. If Lexus wanted to impress the yacht world and not just the car world, they missed the mark by a decade.

  • avatar

    How about some Lexus branded captain’s hats, like the one worn by the Skipper in Gilligan’s Island? You could even wear it at a jaunty (like that word?) angle, like the Skipper.

  • avatar

    Holy hell. Forget the boat. Is that CUV in the first photo actually something Lexus is producing and trying to convince people to drive on roads where it will be seen by innocent human eyes? I’d heard people joke about the “Predator mouth” before but that does’t look like a mouth, that looks like something put the car in its mouth and bit the front off leaving only a bloody stump.

  • avatar

    Nope. Won’t be buying one of those. Now, if a new Cris-Craft were to come onto the market…

  • avatar

    I thought Lexus WAS a premium boat itself.

  • avatar

    “boats have actually been around since prehistoric times and physical examples have been discovered that are at least 10,000 years old”

    Too bad, there will be nobody around to discover 10,000 years old Lexus boat

  • avatar

    Can a Lexus branded true land barge be far behind?

  • avatar

    Lexus has a big disconnect with their styling and their customer base . I absolutely love the Lexus GS we have , It does not have the predator mouth . Ours has been the best vehicle I have ever owned since I bought my first car in 1966 . I started looking for a fresh Lexus but the new models are crazy looking. Another GS if it did not have that horrible front end . Maybe the new LS sedan I have not seen one yet except on TV and photos . Sure sales are down What are they thinking in Lexus styling ?

    • 0 avatar

      My 2000 GS400 is the best car I’ve ever owned. Yeah, I won’t be buying a spindle-grille Lexus. In fact, my next Lexus will be either a 2005 GS (last year of 2nd-gen) or a 2006 LS (last year of 3rd-gen). The models after these ones just don’t seem to have the Lexus quality I’ve come to expect.

  • avatar

    I just like the fact that it is a nice (seemingly), Japanese branded (built, hopefully…) boat. The country is a bloody industrial powerhouse sans equal, and an Island to boot. Yet their presence amongst recreational boat builders, have been stuck somewhere between that of Mongolia and The Congo.

  • avatar

    The Sport Yacht concept doesn’t exactly scream ‘Lexus’ style wise, but its twin Lexus V8s with 500hp a piece at least provided a mechanical connection. Scale things up to a 65-footer and it’s clear that something altogether more yachtier will be needed, engine-wise.

    Fit the inevitable Caterpillars or MTUs (certainly not Volvo Pentas) and you’re left with a very tenuous Lexus factor indeed. Not really sure why anybody would buy a Lexus yacht with so many Sunseekers, Azimuts and Hatterases to choose from.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    The Black Panther cross promotion will be the end of them. Goodbye long-time repeat buyers.

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