Sorry, you have been lied to about the next-gen LFA, and here is the proof. Now, about that LF-LC …

One of the last LFA made in Motomachi. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

On Thursday and Friday, I went to Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands. I did not go for the scenery, but to watch Lexus’ new crossover, the NX, come off the line. I did that. And I did something else. I experienced the birth of a duck. In the business, the French word “canard” (duck) stands for “false or misleading report or story,” and this is the story of how a canard was hatched.

Since yesterday, you undoubtedly have heard the reports that a new Lexus LFA “has been confirmed.” Don’t sell that house, or cash in that 501K just yet. I have to disappoint you, the reports are bogus.

“As we first reported back in 2012, a next-generation LFA is in the works,” wrote Autoguide. “Our insider’s tip has now been publicly confirmed by company Executive Vice President Mark Templin.” Not true. Templin did no such thing. Autoguide’s inside sources fit in a shot glass.

Boldride wrote: “On Friday, Lexus’ executive vice president Mark Templin told reporters that the company has plans to build a next-gen version of the LFA.” No, he did not say that.

“Lexus LFA 2 confirmed for production by Lexus,” wrote Clublexus. “Even LFA 3 is being planned already.” Baloney.

Now that I either disappointed, or enraged you, I give you the rare opportunity to witness the production of what is passed-off as news these days. I will give you the complete transcript of the Mark Templin interview as it pertains to the LFA. How did I get it? I was in the room, and had my recorder rolling.

On Friday, we were given the choice of riding in a brand-new Lexus NX, or to meet Mark Templin on the fourth floor of the Rihga Royal Hotel near the main station of Kokura, Kyushu. I am not a big car tester, Mark Templin was the better offer in my eyes. Most of the media disagreed, and went driving.

In the meeting room was Mark Templin, Executive Vice President of Lexus International, accompanied by PR Manager Brian Lyons. There were two reporters, Craig Trudell of Bloomberg, and Martin Koelling of Germany’s Handelsblatt. And there was I. The interview took an hour and touched on many points. It ended with the following questions and answers, which are brought to you unedited.

Craig Trudell: “We were talking with Fukuichi-san last night, and we were talking about one of his favorite topics, the LFA. We were talking about the supercars, and the high-end halo cars, and the future of Lexus in that perspective.”

Mark Templin: “What did he tell you?”

Craig Trudell: “He did not tell us much. He did have interesting things to say about how successful the LFA was as a project, and what it had accomplished for the brand. I wonder if you would share your thoughts about what LFA did for you, and how Lexus thinks about the future in terms of a halo car.”

Mark Templin: “When we first started the LFA project many years ago, what we were asking for was a $120,000 sports car. And as it went through the development process, it became more technologically advanced, and more expensive because of it. I started to doubt whether we were doing the right thing with that car because it was not like what we were asking for. We saw a niche in the marketplace – we have customers in the market who would buy our car, and then add the most expensive wheels they could put on, and the most expensive accessories, just to beef up the price of the car – because they wanted a more expensive car! They were worried that if they would take the original car home, their wife would think their business was not doing good, or something. They were actually increasing the price of the car with accessories. We saw a niche for a $120,000 coupe, and that’s what we asked for in the beginning. When it got more expensive, we started to doubt whether this was the right thing to do. I knew that it was a great car, and I was really excited about the product, but from a branding perspective, I was really wondering what we would get out of it.

Once we got closer to the launch of the car, we started to strategize, and after the launch, we started seeing all the benefits we would get from it, and I believed it was the best thing we ever did.

The LFA really made people think differently within the company about what Lexus can stand for in the future. It drove us down the performance route that made the GS a better car, and the IS a better car, and the RC was coming to life, and all the things you are going to see over the next five years. And it gave our engineers something special to work on, and get excited about those kind of products. Many of the things we did for the LFA influenced things we did for all the other products. You look at that as a standalone project, and you say, wow, was it worth all the money, the big investment? And I’d say yes, because of all the benefits we would get out of it. Now, Akio believes that every generation deserves to have a car like an LFA. So we built an LFA for the generation we have today. And at some point we should have a special car for another generation. Because he believes that every generation deserves a special car like this.”

Craig Trudell: “Do you think that that special car is in the area of what you were first looking at? A $120,000 coupe?”
Mark Templin: “I think that’s one example of a halo car. I believe today that we can have many halo cars in our line-up. That’s what the F brand is all about. We can have halo cars in this segment and in this segment, and in that segment, and then there is the LFA that stands about everything else. I think we can have halo cars in each of those segments.”

Martin Koelling: “A halo what?”

Mark Templin: “A halo car!”

Bertel Schmitt (in German to his German friend:) „A Heiligenschein-car.“

Martin Koelling: “I did not know that expression.”

Mark Templin: “I am sorry.”

Bertel Schmitt: “It’s a car business term, a car that draws people in the showroom.”

Mark Templin: “It’s like the halo on angel’s head.”

Craig Trudell: “There are plenty of reports as of late that the LF-LC will be green-lighted.”

Mark Templin (grins:) “Hmmm. That’s interesting. You want us to build that car?”

Craig Trudell: “I’d love to see it, yeah.”

Mark Templin (grins even more:) “Hmmm. Would you buy that?”

Craig Trudell (pouts:) “I might need a job at Lexus to afford it.”

Mark Templin: “I am not going to make any commitment. I won’t tell you yes, and I won’t tell you no.”

Brian Lyons: “We all like that car.”

Mark Templin (beams): “I got to show that car for the first time at the Detroit Motor Show, and we got more response from that press conference than any car I had ever shown in my life, and I have done press conferences like that all over the world in many, many different places, and I was blown away by the response for that car.”

Bertel Schmitt: “Ok, build it then.”

With that said, we all went downstairs and piled in the bus to Toyota Motor Kyushu, to watch the first NX rolling off the line. Well, we took the bus. Templin had a conveyance commensurate with his position.

Departing Kyushu, Friday afternoon. Backpacker left: Martin Koelling. Suit-carrier right: Craig Trudell

Departing Kyushu, Friday afternoon. Backpacker left: Martin Koelling. Suit-carrier right: Craig Trudell

Now, having been the witness of the unadulterated interview, would you say a next-gen LFA was confirmed? I’d say the general idea of a halo car was hinted at, but even the hint was quickly watered down into halo cars for all segments. That “special car for another generation” doesn’t even need to be a super-expensive car. It could be a super-thrilling car, or a super-connected car, or whatever that new generation gets excited about.

Having been a witness of the unadulterated interview, and having (through yours truly) read the face and body language of Mark Templin, would you think that the LF-LC has been green lighted? Since Friday, I would bet money on that it has.

Having been a witness of the unadulterated interview, will you believe anything written in the car blogs? I would not.

Craig Trudell wrote the right thing in his original story that turned into the mother of all LFA rumors. Trudell correctly added: “A second LFA isn’t imminent, and another generation could be about 30 years in the future, said Brian Lyons, a spokesman.”

The headline writer who wrote “Lexus Sees $375,000 LFA Supercar Return After Generation” already took poetic license.  The blogs that wrote about their “inside sources” and that the next-gen LFA has been released for production, they simply lied. And if they would have been in Kyushu, they would have gone driving anyway.

Aftermath: On the bus to the NX line-off, a Toyota staffer whispered to me: “A line like that could cost a job.” I mumbled back: “Only if the story is real, and if the car is to be released before 2017.” We both grinned.

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This entry was posted in LFA and tagged , , by Bertel Schmitt. Bookmark the permalink.

About Bertel Schmitt

After a 40 year hiatus, spent doing propaganda in the automotive industry around the world, Bertel returns as a journalist and to the roots of his initials. His wife is a late model Japanese Import. They live in China and Japan, unless they travel elsewhere. Which they usually do.

3 thoughts on “Sorry, you have been lied to about the next-gen LFA, and here is the proof. Now, about that LF-LC …

  1. Dear Mr. Schmitt,

    Thank you for clearing this up. As somebody wrote some time ago; If the italians tell you 1000 and not more everybody is going Yeah, yeah. If a Japanese top engineer tells you the same thing its the thruth.

    I had the honor to have some conversations with Mr. Tanahashi San and he told me the same. 500 that is it. The production numbers and Vin numbers do not run equal but that has something to do with stronger thoughts behind it. Luck and unluck. Mine was # 360 but VIN is 358. And besides that they have build some spares for the racing department. At the end of the day there are 500 build for customers and 500 sold to customers, sorry 499 and 1 given away due to a very good longstanding relationship.( based upon my knowledge ).

    Best regards, Maarten Verschure

  2. I also had the pleasure of various conversations with Tanahashi-san, and he struck me as a no-nonsense guy. At the train station, he picked me up in a blue Vitz, the Japanese hatchback doppelgaenger of the Yaris. Tanahasi isn’t a man prone to hyperbole, and if he says 500, I trust it is 500. Besides, he let me into the little room where they store the file boxes – http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/the-making-of-the-lexus-lfa-supercar-an-inside-report-chapter-4-balance-of-power/ – where, one box for each car, the birth of each of the 500 LFA is documented – on paper. I was there in May and June 2012, the number they worked on was 369 – http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/the-making-of-the-lexus-lfa-supercar-an-inside-report-chapter-5-exam-week/ – you must have been there a few days before me. Six months later, the 500 were done, and the LFA Works were closed forever.

    Best, Bertel

    • Dear Bertel,
      I haven’t seen your reply yet. My apologies for this. Thank you for responding to my comment.

      Yes Mr. Tanahasi san is down to earth and it was a honor to meet him, a special moment in my life for sure. One of these occassions was on the Nurburg ring and off course everybody was cars – cars – cars so a conversation about living a life besides these hectic introductions was welcomed and we surprised him twice; one time with a pair of wooden shoes he realy liked and one time with the fact that the Volvo 360 in its years had a transaxle too, wich he said he didn’t knew and what I till today don’t know to believe. I will probably never know.

      Have a great evening. Maarten Verschure

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