TOKYO -- In a step toward possibly moving Lexus' head office out of Japan, the brand is transferring global marketing functions to a new decision-making center in California.
The shift begins in January with the creation of an office at Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc.'s campus in Torrance, Calif. It will handle creative marketing and some brand communications worldwide, said Karl Schlicht, head of Lexus' global product and marketing planning division.
The decision was made last summer. One person has been appointed to open the unit. The staff will expand to three in January.
Executive Vice President Yukitoshi Funo said the move is part of Lexus' attempt to remake itself as a "transnational" -- rather than Japanese -- brand.
Schlicht said Toyota Motor Corp. is weighing a global headquarters outside of Japan for its luxury brand. One option could be the United States, the country where the Lexus brand was launched in 1989. But no decisions have been made, he said.
"We're thinking about it," Schlicht said, adding that other global functions could be shifted to the California office as well.
"If they do a good job, their responsibilities could grow. We have a lot of people raising their hands for it."
In April, Infiniti, the luxury brand of Nissan Motor Co., will move its global headquarters to Hong Kong from Japan, to handle global marketing, sales and communications. Engineering and manufacturing will remain in Japan.
Lexus aims to bolster its brand image by strengthening its performance credentials and assuming a more international flavor.
As an example of the new mentality, one executive cited the decision not to serve sushi or offer chopsticks at a Lexus dinner reception held in advance of the Tokyo Motor Show. He said: "We don't want to be blatantly Japanese."