How Lexus Is Selling Lexus Without Having to Sell Cars

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Lexus ( TM) has long been known for creating luxurious experiences for its customers. But until now that luxury has been associated with high-end automobiles.

In a unique move for a carmaker, Lexus has opened its first luxury "experience space" -- which is not to be confused with a car showroom. Or a retail store, for that matter.

As Lexus describes it, Intersect by Lexus is a place where people can experience Lexus without getting behind a steering wheel -- places for "interaction among people and between people and cars."

That interaction can take place in a variety of ways. The first Intersect by Lexus, which opened Aug. 30 in Tokyo's trendy Aoyama district, includes a cafe and an exhibition space on the first floor. On the second floor is a library lounge where food is served and a shop selling lifestyle items crafted for Lexus.

"The origin of the idea comes from a desire to expose people to a different side of Lexus -- more of the emotional side of the brand that we are trying to emphasize of late," Lexus Corporate Marketing Manager Will Nicklas says. "When you look at a consumer of luxury goods, it's about more than just the product for them. It's also about a connection people have with the brand. This provides a physical place where we can do some exciting things and have some exciting collaborations and in the process, connect with our buyers and with the community in a new way."

There will only be a handful of experience spaces around the world. The next is slated to open in New York City, with a date and address to be determined. The company has not yet signed a lease. Dubai will also be host to an Intersect by Lexus shop, but additional cities haven't been identified.

The spaces are by interior designer Masamichi Katayama, founder of the design firm Wonderwall. The company declined to reveal how much it is spending to design the spaces.

And while each location will be slightly different in look and design, they will have similar elements -- a cafe, library lounge and garage gallery space, Nicklas says.

"The library lounge is a place to collaborate, hang out and enjoy a great drink, perhaps do business and socialize," he says. "The garage gallery space is where you will see a Lexus product. But it will never be a current product. It will always be a prototype or concept vehicle."

The library lounge will be a space Lexus uses to connect with the community, Nicklas says. In New York that may involve holding exhibitions tied to Fashion Week, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair or other large events Lexus is routinely involved with. The library lounge space may also be used to connect with a host city through philanthropic events.

The shop on the second floor of the Intersect by Lexus in Tokyo sells small-lot items, many handcrafted, Nicklas says. The New York shop will likely carry some of the items made by Tokyo artisans, as well by New York artists.

Nicklas emphasizes that the spaces are less about selling to customers and more about inspiring and connecting. At the same time, he was hesitant to label the spaces a museum or art gallery, saying the spaces are meant to inspire a sense of "community" while highlighting Lexus' design sensibilities.

"It's really about design -- from fashion to industrial design, to even cuisine and how food is prepared," Nicklas says. "It's really about those intricate details that have made Lexus what it is, and it's about accentuating that."

"The spaces themselves are going to be fantastic and full of surprises," Nicklas says. "Not only in terms of how they are designed, but also in terms of the activations we do. The idea is you come in one day, into the gallery and or to eat some food and get one thing, and then come back another time and see something else. And each time you're getting a surprising experience from Lexus."

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