We like it when auto executives answer our questions candidly, and that was certainly the case for Lexus with the online workshop they held with selected journalists in Asia for the next generation LX.
Like the Range Rover or the X7, the LX is the flagship SUV of the Lexus brand, serving as a very popular option for chief executives and tycoons. The new generation model has a long list of changes and improvements, most of which were focused on ride comfort on any road (or terrain), off-road capability, turbocharged V6 performance, a huge 200kg weight reduction, safety technology, and luxury. Needless to say, Lexus pulled all the stops to give their customers a unique feeling of omotenashi (Japanese hospitality) whenever they step into the LX 600.
For those curious about when the LX will be launched in the Philippines, we've been told that they will announce it in February.
There are a few things that needed asking though. During the workshop, it was brought up that a diesel engine was for approval in the Indian market. The Philippines too is very receptive to diesel engines, so we thought we'd ask if a diesel could be approved for our market as well.
The answer from the Lexus executives in Japan is that it depends largely on the local distributor and the feedback from their customers. They cited Russia and Australia as two such markets; given the demand for diesel engines there, Lexus offers diesel engines for certain models in those countries.
So if a turbo-diesel is to be launched by Lexus in the Philippines, it will have to depend on the local distributor. Given the direction of Lexus worldwide, however, we don't expect diesels to be introduced in the coming years. Eventually -so we're told- all Lexus models here will have a hybrid version.
The other question I had was with regards to vehicle armoring. In the Philippine setting, ballistic protection is very popular for luxury models like the LX, albeit almost all are done by the aftermarket as an expensive retrofit.
Some auto brands do offer ballistic protection as a factory option: Mercedes has the Guard series, BMW has the Protection variants, and Jaguar has the Sentinel versions. But Lexus has none. Given the target (no pun intended) market of the LX, did they ever consider a ballistic protection version of their models for markets with demand for such models?
According to Kyoko Miyamoto of the Lexus Brand Enhancement Division of Lexus International, they will never offer any armored or vehicle with any kind of ballistic protection. Actually, neither will Toyota. And the reason is not because they don't want to, but because they can't. If Lexus or Toyota ever built a vehicle with ballistic protection, the Japanese government could consider it as a weapon and will not be allowed for production without specialized permits, much less export.
We're trying to find that law, but the only one we could find is the 1958 law banning or severely controlling the possession of firearms and swords. We're not so sure how that relates to vehicles, but anyone who is familiar with post-World War II Japanese history will know of their adoption of a pacifist national policy. That's why their military is known as the JSDF or Japan Self Defense Force instead of army, navy, or air force, and why their police do not carry firearms.
So if you want an armored Lexus or Toyota, you'll have to go to the aftermarket. Actually, if the law is the hindrance, that also means it would apply to other Japanese automakers like Nissan, Infiniti, Mitsubishi, Honda, and others.