The Lexus dealership that isn’t

Can a premium automotive brand sell more cars and enhance loyalty without actually putting shoppers in a driver’s seat for a test drive? Lexus aims to find out.

Intersect by Lexus is billed as a 'luxury brand experience space', something akin to a one-stop, date-night locus for serious Lexus aficionados (or wannabes).

Opening on 30 August in Tokyo’s affluent Aoyama shopping and entertainment district, Intersect by Lexus is billed as a “luxury brand experience space”, something akin to a one-stop, date-night locus for serious Lexus aficionados (or wannabes). Within its art-laden walls, consumers can sip a libation, grab a bite to eat, attend a brand workshop, take in a car-culture-related exhibition and shop for luxury goods. Or just loiter in style. It’s a brand-immersion experience that subtly melds high-end design, fashion, film, music, food and technology under one roof.

One activity that Intersect by Lexus will not accommodate, however, is actually buying a car.

 “Intersect by Lexus seeks to be a comfortable and inspiring place,” explains Mark Templin, executive vice president of Lexus International. “It’s not just for Lexus as a car company, but somewhere people can come and experience and learn about exciting new design in a welcoming, contemporary environment.”

The centre automatically earns cachet by dint of its sleek interior design, courtesy of Masamichi Katayama, the founder of the noted design group Wonderwall – the same team that has raised the bar for retail styling with projects like the 100% Chocolate Café in Tokyo, the Ozone bar atop the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, Nike’s flagship store in Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood and Uniqlo shops in New York and Paris.

In a video interview, Katayama says he envisioned a “clubhouse” where fellow Lexus owners can socialise, work or just hang out – something “along the lines of a progressive British gentlemen’s club”. Judging from photos, he has achieved just that: a sensuous and airy lair that is contemporary, but still manages to pay homage to traditional Japanese architectural influences and takumi (craftsmanship). At the same time, it would still feel at home as, say, a man-cave for James Bond, minus his Aston Martin. It’s the details that count here, from whimsical flourishes – the colourful toy cars that adorn the ceiling of an otherwise minimalistic bathroom, for instance – to design tie-ins with the very cars to which the centre pays homage, like an exterior patterned facade made of bamboo – which also is used inside Lexus cars, Katayama notes.

The ground level features an exhibition area called the Garage, as well as a café. The upper storey offers a Crafted for Lexus shop, which showcases a lifestyle collection of brands that “harmonise with Lexus” values of craftsmanship and luxury (Rhythm smartphone and tablet cases made of Japanese leather; Tamaki Niime shawls handcrafted on vintage looms; lacquered-wood USB memory sticks designed by Hacoa; shoes from blueover, etc.) The shops share the top floor with a library lounge, where visitors can relax and dine on modern Tokyo cuisine.

Two more Intersect by Lexus centres are in the works, one located in Dubai and another in New York. Just as certain well-endowed hospitals sooner resemble resorts than health-care centres, the Intersect concept reflects a substantial shift in the notion of how consumers should shop for prestige automobiles.

Consider, for example, The Centre at Lexus Escondido in Escondido, California, just north of San Diego. This 336,000sq-ft “super dealership” offers shoppers amenities such as a palm-tree-lined reflecting pool, a dancing-waters fountain, glass elevators, a golf simulator, a private library with massage chairs, a children’s zone, retail space and more than 27,000sq-ft of event space available for concerts, wedding and banquets. Visitors can also relax at the centre’s Cyber Café and sip complimentary Peet’s gourmet coffee and nosh on free pastries, or dine at a 10,000sq-ft restaurant with 17ft glass windows that offer stunning views of nearby mountains.

Learn more about Intersect by Lexus, including today’s menu for the Bistro, here.