MAY 8, 2018
Seats in all LEXUS models – including the new flagship LS – are refined through rigorous testing and evaluation by a team unique in the industry.
Lexus has always endeavoured to produce vehicles with elevated levels of Omotenashi, the Japanese art of hospitality that anticipates customer needs – treating everyone like a guest in your own home. At the core of such experiences are comfortable and supportive seats and unique amongst automakers, Lexus engages a seat testing and evaluation team led by a “seat master”. A seat master is a skilled expert who gauges seat comfort and performance primarily by direct physical sensation during various ride test scenarios. Tetsu Ihara has spent thirty years in vehicle seat evaluation and more than a decade as a Lexus seat master. His instincts – sharpened over that period – help the Lexus seat provide true Omotenashi.
Ihara’s instinctive judgements are supported by hydraulic and robot simulations, along with a series of tests analysing pressure distribution of the seat. Despite its human-subjective nature, ‘assessment by feeling’ is a codified process with an established checking system. Assessed for more than simply comfort, the driver’s seat is also evaluated for dynamic response. “Our aim is to have seats throughout the cabin that provide comfort and relieve tension after a weary day, by quickly and accurately transmitting the vehicle’s movement, providing reassurance for both driver and passengers,” he says. To gauge how quickly vehicle movements are transmitted to the driver, the seat master is also required to hold a Lexus-certified high-performance driver’s license, similar to the one held by the Lexus master driver, who measures performance across a range of typical driving conditions. After determining the Lexus seat experience for decades, Ihara appreciates the importance of optimizing the best seat possible for both comfort and driving pleasure, something he didn’t focus on before becoming a seat master.
The seats in the all-new Lexus flagship LS raise expectations in comfort, offering numerous unique, luxury innovations including 28-way electronic-adjustability and in some grades, shiatsu massage functionality. These new features challenged Ihara’s team to realize best comfort within the predetermined cabin dimensions such as headroom and hip space. Despite these constraints, Ihara’s expert judgements have succeeded in delivering a luxury experience without compromise. “It’s our responsibility to deliver a seat with the highest levels of functionality without compromising comfort, to help ensure their adoption in future Lexus models,” he says.
After evaluating the all-new LS, as with all Lexus models, Ihara’s team judges their own work, awarding themselves a ranking of 1-5 (best being 5). To-date the team has yet to score themselves the highest ranking – always aspiring to improve themselves in service of a better customer experience. Indicative of this, and always with an eye to future succession, the team is highly competitive, each ambitious to become seat masters themselves under Ihara’s mentorship, building on the high standards he has set. Ihara and his team represent Lexus’ ongoing deep and detailed commitment to deliver an exceptional customer experience.