TOYOTA CITY, Japan -- Lexus hasn't abandoned the aggressive fighter-jet grille that appeared on its LF-Gh concept last spring but was watered down for the GS sedan that goes on sale next year.
Future Lexus models will dramatize the bold, wide look even more as part of a new direction for the brand, says Tokuo Fukuichi, chief officer of Toyota Motor Corp.'s design group.
"In the next model we will emphasize this grille even more," Fukuichi said in an interview. "You would probably remember this grille if you saw it pass on the street."
Shifting toward the look seen in the concept's grille is part of Fukuichi's drive to create more memorable designs for Lexus. That will involve taking risks with designs that go beyond safe acceptance by focus groups.
"We shouldn't always stay in the middle of the mainstream," said Fukuichi, who has been global head of design at Lexus and Toyota since April 2010. "When you launch the product, it ends up with no character."
Design cues for Lexus' so-called spindle grille, which takes its name from the hour glass-shape of a spindle of thread, first appeared in the Lexus HS 250h hybrid.
It became more overt in the CT 200h entry-level hatchback. But it was the LF-Gh concept, shown at the 2011 New York auto show in April, that took the look to far-out extremes.
The black, mask-like grille of the concept ran unbroken from the hood through the bumper, calling to mind the air intake ducts of a jet engine. But Lexus backed off for the production version, keeping the spindle outline but breaking the grille with a horizontal bar.
Fukuichi insists the look is more than just window dressing. The spindle shape helps channel air into the lower aperture for the engine compartment.
"The spindle grille is not just a design matter; it also has to have a good functional performance in bringing in air," he says. "Air flow is part of the design. It's not merely cosmetic."