Lexus admits people don't like its giant grilles
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Love 'em or hate 'em, grilles have been a point of contention within the auto industry for years.
Some automakers make a point of having massive grilles as an intentional styling choice, even when the car physically doesn't need them.
Like Lexus, for example. Lexus' modern design language includes the "spindle grille," which has had buyers divided since the early 2010s.
And now, Lexus global design head, Koichi Suga, admits that customers aren't loving the look. In an interview with Automotive News, the head of design for the automaker says that in future cars, the grilles will be getting toned down a little, thanks to customer feedback.
While discussing the upcoming styling changes for the company, Suga mentioned that Lexus performed a customer feedback survey, where it became clear that the massive, hourglass-shaped grilles of the company's ICE-powered cars have been a turnoff for some consumers.
Now that the company is making the pivot towards electric vehicles, grilles are more of a styling choice than one of function.
The primary purpose of a grille is to allow air to flow through and cool a car’s engine. Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) don’t have engines as such, so they don’t really need grilles. The bits that need it can be cooled in other ways, because they’re not all stuck right up at the front of the car.
The most polarizing grille design for Lexus has been the "spindle" style, which has an intricate diamond weave taking over the front of the car. But even the company's more traditional grille designs have been considered a dominant feature up until this point.
Lexus has been under fire ever since the "spindle" style grilles were first released. It was initially designed to try to appeal to younger buyers, but had mixed results.
Before his retirement in 2018, Lexus VP Jeff Bracken said in regards to grilles: "I'll take phone calls from some of these owners and will literally spend 45 minutes to an hour on the phone with me just expressing how disappointed they are."
Now, the company wants to tone it down a little, while maintaining the signature look. It'll attempt to integrate it more seamlessly into the body, creating what it's calling the "spindle body," showcased on the company's new RZ plug-in electric car.
"We want to maintain the spindle shape itself. But the spindle has always been based on the functionality of what's happening under the hood," Suga said.
"The new spindle execution is based on this learning" about customer preferences, he added. "We need the right balance."
But, he did also add that people are already comparing the newly-redesigned Lexus RX's front to Darth Vader's helmet. So, it's clear this new balance may not appease all luxury shoppers.