What is a New Generation for a Car?

Despite carried-over platform, 2021 Lexus IS has changed enough to defy our conceptions of car updates

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The 2021 Lexus IS in F-Sport (left) and regular versions
Two details of the 2021 Lexus IS

What is usually changed?

Every change in a car demands several re-evaluations to make sure everything still works appropriately. However, one thing is to replace a bumper, to give an example, for another one with different looks but the same attachments to the body, and another is to redesign any pillar, which affects doors, roof, windows and the whole structural resistance. Each change has its degree of complexity.

In 2005, the Lexus IS underwent a complete change towards its second generation

New generation

This is the “entirely new product”. Dimensions, equipment, style, powertrain, even the materials applied may change. We’re talking about a different project which uses the same name as before because it has built a strong reputation in the market. The Lexus IS went through that fifteen years ago, when it reached a second generation. The station wagon body was replaced with a cabriolet.

The IS’s latest update can be named a heavy redesign

Heavy redesign

Since people and press want to see change and changing everything is just too expensive, how about changing only what is visible? Lexus’ sporty sedan went to 2021 preserving its platform, which implies parts like engine, transmission, suspension and brakes and most external dimensions were largely untouched. We can say this is the most complex form of partial update automakers apply.

Lexus IS’ third generation was facelifted in 2016


That’s the quintessential partial update. Some parts of the project are changed while others remain the same — once again, choosing which ones to touch can greatly affect the operation’s cost. The Lexus IS provided us a good example in 2016, as the photos show: the front fascia keeps the well-known spindle grille but all the other styling components feature either new shape or new position.

The JDM Toyota Altezza was lightly retouched to become the first Lexus IS


Over the years, companies found it interesting to apply even fewer changes in some cases. A retouch affects details such as grille mesh, wheel design, paint, trim and the addition of accessories. It’s useful for the first update of a new generation because it helps the same car go back under the spotlights without spending much on a car model that had only started to return its investment.

Sometimes, body styles differ even at their common parts, like the 2010 Lexus IS’s sedan and cabriolet versions

Appropriate for every moment

Even though people love to see all-new cars being released, the truth is, using that strategy too often would harm them. Basically, production would become more expensive, so the final price would increase, and the cars would become obsolete in the market earlier. People would lose more money every time they bought and sold a car, so that purchase would become less and less attractive.

Writer and future engineer striving to work with car design. If you like cars but not the stereotypes that surround them, give my articles a try.

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