Can Lexus Cars at SEMA Deliver on Brand Reputation?

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Andrew Atigehchi’s 2007 IS 250

There has been a bit of reluctance on the part of car blogs to include Toyota’s (NYSE:TM) Lexus brand in the “hip” category. When after-market tuners and uber-enthusiasts go to work, they are more likely to check on the Scion FR-S or another nameplate, rather than the Japanese automaker’s luxury brand. However, there is a case to be made for the Lexus “it” factor, as several generations of the IS got custom-build showcases at the 2013 Specialty Equipment Market Association Awards.

The 2014 Lexus IS n0w in dealerships got the full custom treatment when the automaker partnered with deviantART to find a design that would put the latest generation IS into the boldest sphere imaginable. The deviantART contest winner had his design made into reality by VIP Auto Salon for the 2013 SEMA Show. The result was a ferocious looking sedan Autoblog photographed that created a real buzz on the expo floor.

Lexus is looking to bring that type of hype to the 2014 IS and the brand in general. After the mediocre reviews the IS received, there is good reason to remind auto lovers what the car has done in its several incarnations. In fact, the 2007 IS 250 got the royal treatment from Andrew Atigehchi, a Lexus owner who added F-sport accessories to make a vinyl-covered monster out of the IS. Other IS models on display showed different angles.

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2004 IS 300 by Maricar Cortez

Of note for Lexus was the 2004 IS 300 that had a ProLex Performance Supercharger as well as custom exhaust in the project by car owner Maricar Cortez, according to a Toyota statement. This ride had a real-world look to it that only hinted of the beast beneath.

Auto enthusiasts can do a great deal for a brand, as the several generations of Mustang lovers did for Ford (NYSE:F) and Corvette fanatics did for General Motors (NYSE:GM). There simply hasn’t been the same level of talk around the garage and in the driveways for Lexus automobiles over the years. The effort to add to the cache of Lexus among car enthusiasts may be a good call for Toyota, and the SEMA Show vehicles are certainly a step in that direction.

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