Photo by Annie-Lee Taylor
Family adds personal touch to corporate brand
The experience at Lexus of Austin is Toyota Motor Corp.’s plan in action to garner—and keep—clientele through highly personalized customer service. Lexus of Austin is locally owned, but Lexus is Toyota’s luxury brand.
An August remodel of the 11-year-old dealership, located on Stonelake Boulevard near the Arboretum, added a lounge with a full-service coffee bar, not unlike a Starbucks, with cappuccinos, pastries and other sundries at no extra charge to customers while they wait for their car to be serviced.
Among the other changes is a new delivery department whose sole purpose is to inform customers of the ins-and-outs of their cars, which are frequently equipped with sometimes hard-to-navigate technological amenities that would make Siri green with envy.
However, the family-owned business, which has been in Austin since 1989, is infused with personal details. Paintings by Maxine Roberts, whose husband, John, and daughter, Vicki Roberts Howard, started the business at a former location on I-35 near Ben White Boulevard, can be found throughout the dealership.
Interior designer Riley Suffel—Vicki’s stepdaughter—oversaw the interior redesign, and picked out everything down to the lampshades.
“This place has more of a feminine touch [than other dealerships]. I see Riley’s and Vicki’s style everywhere,” said Sales Manager Curtis Howard, Suffel’s brother.
Nowhere are Vicki’s and Suffel’s tastes more obvious than at the dealership’s gift shop, Boutique on Stonelake, which opened with the remodel.
“We used to have polo shirts and fake Rolexes that said ‘Lexus’ on them. They never sold. This appeals much more to our customer base,” Howard said.
The boutique carries seasonally rotated goods including handmade jewelry, high-end soaps and hand creams, books, throw pillows, loungewear and even Yeti ice chests, a locally made cooler.
“The idea is that if a customer is here having their car serviced and suppose he forgets it’s someone’s birthday, they can buy whatever they need here,” Suffel said.
Center for Child Protection
The family’s pride and joy, just as much as the dealership, is the Center for Child Protection. The nonprofit organization was co-founded in 2000 by the Roberts family and aims to reduce trauma for children who have suffered abuse. Each year, Lexus of Austin auctions a new car and sends all of the proceeds—which last year was about $200,000, Howard said—to the center, among other contributions.