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Paul Williamsen is the national manager of Lexus International, which means he is responsible for education and training for Lexus dealers and distributors around the world. He is the point man to ensure best practices are shared globally and to encourage collaboration to improve the image of the brand. Much of his career has been spent teaching and training, whether it is product information for dealers on the new products they are about to sell or a manual he co-authored early in his career on fuel-injection systems.
QUESTION: What is Lexus International?
ANSWER: It is a two-year-old company, a free-standing division responsible for things like the Lexus brand and what it means to dealers in every country.
Q: It seems like you are adopting some unusual tactics?
A: There is a lot of activity, all centered around design. Lexus has become deeply engaged in the design world. For example, we have a series of short films co-produced by Lexus and the Weinstein Company, and they don’t even feature . And we will do more next year. And we launched a magazine about craftsmanship and design.
Q: You are also promoting the brand with cultural projects including “Intersect by Lexus” art galleries in Tokyo, New York, London and Dubai and design awards in Milan?
A: We got involved in fashion at the Milano Salone with a full-size crystal (Lexus) LFA a few years ago. This year we had a greater presence and sponsored a competition where people submitted designs of anything to do with motion. We got a foldable city scooter that looks like a Swiss army knife, ceramics that look like origami and LED lighting stalks that move like rice in the wind. The lights glow and lean toward people when they walk through them.
Q: Why would you invest in areas that do not even feature your vehicles?
A: In many countries the people who buy a Lexus are far wealthier than buyers in the U.S. We are trying to reach premium, affluent buyers globally.
Q. Does that include going after younger buyers?
A: Yes. We need to ensure we have the buyers of the future. The new Lexus IS that we just launched has always attracted our youngest buyer but now the median age is in the low 40s.
Q: Why is Lexus doing these things?
A. Akio Toyoda (Toyota CEO) wants more differentiation between Lexus and Toyota. Design is one area where we will do that. He also wants the cars to drive differently. They are tuned and evaluated to different standards.