LOS ANGELES -- Nothing like citrus-cured sardines with Escabeche vegetables or braised halibut with a quail egg to get the conversation flowing.
Indeed, Lexus Division boss Mark Templin figures the best way to get up close and personal with his customers is to dine with them -- in their homes and in style.
Instead of reading reams of market research, Templin is hoping to pick up some insights by engaging in lively talk with Lexus buyers over sumptuous meals catered by famous chefs.
And there is a lot that he wants to learn about what makes them tick. The demographics for Toyota's luxury brand have been trending older. And Lexus this year has lost the U.S. luxury sales leadership to Mercedes-Benz, while BMW is hot on Lexus' heels.
At the first dinner, held this month in Beverly Hills, 16 current and former Lexus owners traded their perceptions of Lexus and other luxury brands -- automotive and otherwise.
"There were Mercedes owners, BMW, Audi, Land Rover and some hybrid owners," Templin said. "One lady had owned 30 different cars. Some of the people are very wealthy, but they drive nonluxury products for various reasons."