Las Vegas, 2016. Las Vegas, 2018. Las Vegas, here again in 2020.
About the only thing as reliable as this city's place on the NADA Show schedule is Lexus' dominance in NADA's twice-a-year Dealer Attitude Survey.
Lexus picked up another No. 1 ranking in the latest study, released to Automotive News this month. It was the luxury brand's 12th in the last decade.
How does Lexus keep its edge with dealers? An unpublicized program, called Elevate Lexus, may provide a clue.
Paul Clark, a Toyota veteran who heads Lexus College, says the effort was inspired by dealers. They sought the factory's help in guiding their employees through an expected era of profound change.
The series of three-day seminars, 11 in total, began last fall. The program combines leadership training and a deep-steeping in what Clark calls the brand experience. It's aimed at dealership managers, not principals — the folks who don't normally get to rub elbows with Toyota bosses.
Current and former Lexus execs share their views. Lessons in enlightened customer care come from Union Square Hospitality Group. Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business is a partner. It's all capped with a dinner at the Cowboys Club at the Star, a nod to another enduring brand, the Dallas Cowboys.
About 70 percent of 242 U.S. dealerships have sent managers to the jointly funded program (dealers pay $4,995 for the first employee; discounts after that), Clark says.
One of them is Pohanka Lexus in Chantilly, Va. President Scott Crabtree sent six staffers in January, including himself, and four more this week. The cost: at least $7,000 each, counting course fees and transportation.
Why? Trust and customer retention are paramount these days, Crabtree says. Change is coming rapidly. Decisions must be made at lower levels. And, there’s that time-honored Toyota value of continual improvement.
Lexus’ Clark expects close to 100 percent dealer participation after the final round, in March.
By then, Lexus may be on its way to a 10th straight year without a U.S. luxury brand sales championship. Yet it will be a safe bet to win another trophy that says a lot more about enduring strength.