Recently I had the chance to examine and drive the latest Lexus, the top-of-range LS 460, in both standard and long wheelbase version. Of the many carefully wrought details that impressed me were the beautifully made, hand-polished die-castings that surround the side windows. Such attention to detail means that the Japanese company respects its customers and I am seriously convinced that more individual designers and teams should be thinking more often in terms of the finesse of details.

Designers can often make the case for a better solution than manufacturing engineers would imagine. A good example is the Citroën C4, in which the coupé and sedan have quite different physical aspects because the stylists were clever enough to use a single roof stamping process for both cars, even though the profiles of the upper structures are different.

For all the talk of integrating design, engineering and manufacturing, I believe that there is still too little concerted effort made for different disciplines to work together very early in the process of creating new cars. As both the most imaginative and the most flexible people in the system, designers really should engage their less fanciful colleagues in discussions of what can be done far earlier than is now the case in most automotive enterprises.

And once everyone is on the same page, designers need to focus as tightly on subtle details as on the broad outline of the new product. It certainly seems to have worked for Lexus, which came from nowhere seventeen years ago to full parity with the best in the world.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 160