The Japanese carmaker Toyota’s premium leg Lexus has been making a lot of noise in India’s automobile market ever since it launched in the country in 2017. In January 2020, the company launched its first locally assembled car, the ES 300h, which received a good response from Indian consumers.
In an email interview, PB Venugopal, President, Lexus India, speaks to LuxeBook on the company’s strategies, post-pandemic operations, digitisation and more.
Post the pandemic, how do you think the automobile sector change?
Globally, as the pandemic continues to impact our lives, the anticipation of changes in guests’ behaviour as well as the consumption patterns are expected in the medium to long term. They are becoming cautious about their choices. Apart from the new norms of socialising, there may be a marked change in the way they relate to the environment around them, which reflect in the choices they make. The automobile industry will see a paradigm shift with the advent of the ‘new normal’ as the marked difference will be a higher degree of technology adoption, not just in feature-based advancement, but also as a part of the guest interface.
What will your business strategy be going forward?
At Lexus, we are constantly assessing the current situation. India is an important geography for Lexus and we are committed to our guests in India. We are geared up to cater to the changing environment and embracing the dynamic situation without compromising on our guest experience. We have started operations in Bengaluru and Delhi at our GECs, creating a safe and healthy environment. Additionally, we are working on expanding our network, as planned, with new Guest Experience Centers as announced earlier in January 2020. Keeping in line with our belief of providing amazing experiences, our core of being in the ‘People Business’ will continue. We will continue to nurture and provide the driver’s seat to our relationship managers, albeit perhaps with higher support from technology so that the Lexus experience is not compromised. We are also planning strategies that will help us embark on this new relationship between brands and guests. The relationship will be driven via digital touch points, but the human-centric approach will always be the core of our business.
Has the company made any sales since January 2020?
During the pandemic, we had paused deliveries, but we have restarted as the lockdown has been lifted, keeping in mind all the necessary safety regulations and precautions. Recently, we delivered the LC 500h, which we launched in January 2020, to a guest in Coimbatore. Additionally, our locally produced ES 300h has received a good response, and we are gearing up to deliver the Lexus experience to our guests.
Have you had any sales/bookings during the lockdown?
During the lockdown, the industry witnessed a period of absent sales, but we connected with our guests through engaging content on digital platforms, and this helped us to keep the conversation going. Our relationship managers who are trusted automobile advisors to our guests were also in touch with our clients.
Can you talk about the company’s approach to sustainability?
This pandemic has helped us not only reflect upon the environment around us, but also the choices that we have made and their impact on our nature as well as the world that we will leave behind. As a brand, we are always trying to drive a better tomorrow by combining futuristic technology with a human-centric approach and deliver more amazing experiences.
Our self-charging hybrid systems are as reliable as traditional power sources and exceptionally durable. Each Lexus hybrid electric vehicle is hassle-free and delivers an exceptional ownership experience. For every Lexus car that is sold, we plant trees to offset the total emission from the vehicle in its lifetime. As of 2020, Lexus’ carbon neutral initiative has planted over 15,000 trees around India with the support of Grow-Trees.com. Seeing the environment recovering, our guests are appreciating their choice of Lexus Hybrid that contributes to a cleaner environment. We do believe that our discerning guests will continue to appreciate Lexus for crafting electrified vehicles that are future-ready.
What kind of sanitisation protocols is Lexus adhering to in its workshops and showrooms?
We are adhering to good safety and hygiene practices in our GECs including social distancing; offering thermal scanning, masks, and gloves at the entrance; sanitising all guest checkpoints inside the GEC as well as vehicles. For our guests, our emphasis is not only on creating an amazing experience, but also a safe experience. There will be a change in how business is conducted and Lexus believes in making these changes with the human-centric approach.
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How important is digitalisation in this crisis?
The digital platform has helped us connect with our guests through engaging content, keeping the conversation going. We have focussed on delivering this positive approach through our digital platforms and social media engagements and we have also shared video content with our guests on car care during the lockdown. The post-COVID-19 period will focus on digital-first initiatives with a human touchpoint.
Besides, educating people about the importance of staying indoors and social distancing, we have been spreading hope for a better tomorrow through creative content such as podcasts, digital films, and fun contests. For example, during the lockdown period, our digital campaign, #WeCanWeWill was focussed on creating hope.
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We also had a 6-episode podcast running called ‘Go and See,’ which followed journalist Malcolm Gladwell as he travelled to Japan and learnt about the Lexus approach. This podcast gave listeners a chance to experience Japan while also understanding the Lexus brand.
We also initiated a ‘Visionaries of Tomorrow’ contest that tapped the young minds and their endless creative instincts. We received multiple entries and dreams from the younger generation, showcasing creativity and innovation.
Are there any plans to launch new models in the near future?
India is a prominent market, and we are keen to provide the Lexus experience to our guests in the years to come. We will, therefore, continue to invest in this market. We have all the key models that are globally available, in India too. Most recently, the popular world-class ‘All-new ES 300h’, which features uncompromising performance and state-of-the-art technology, safety measures packed in Lexus’s signature refinement, is the first model to be locally produced in India.
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