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Akio Toyoda and his quest for "fun to drive"

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Old 11-27-09, 09:08 AM   #16
flipside909
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I hope his enthusiast ways trickle down to other high level employees
You will be surprised, many of the TMC Chief Engineers are enthusiasts. Check out Mr. Hiro Koba, CE of the HS250h for example. His daily driver is a MR2 Spyder in Japan which he avidly races and autocrosses. He has a host of TRD Sportivo parts for his car. Koba-san has a background in chassis engineering and was responsible for the Avensis suspension. He told me it was important to him that the HS has very good suspension performance despite being in the package it is in. As you guys know, the HS has outstanding handling characteristics, very good steering feel and great cornering abilities. It has very minimal body roll and stays fairly flat in the turns.
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Old 11-27-09, 09:32 AM   #17
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You will be surprised, many of the TMC Chief Engineers are enthusiasts. Check out Mr. Hiro Koba, CE of the HS250h for example. His daily driver is a MR2 Spyder in Japan which he avidly races and autocrosses. He has a host of TRD Sportivo parts for his car. Koba-san has a background in chassis engineering and was responsible for the Avensis suspension. He told me it was important to him that the HS has very good suspension performance despite being in the package it is in. As you guys know, the HS has outstanding handling characteristics, very good steering feel and great cornering abilities. It has very minimal body roll and stays fairly flat in the turns.
and not so tactile on bunch of small bumps ;-). You cant have it all :P
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Old 06-01-10, 08:48 AM   #18
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Just over 6 months after the article that kicked off this thread, Hans Griemel of Automotive News pens a sequel of sorts:

Akio Toyoda: Toyota's top car guy has a lifelong driving passion

As Akio Toyoda climbed the ranks at the automaker his grandfather had founded, many Toyota Motor Corp. managers treated the scion with kid gloves.

Not Hiromu Naruse.

Naruse, a certified Master Test Driver who commands cultlike reverence within the company, sneered at the young executive's claim to be a true car guy.

"He told me, 'I don't want to hear what you have to say about cars until you really know how to drive one,' " Toyoda, who became the automaker's president last June, recalled in an interview on the sidelines of this month's Nurburgring 24-hour endurance race.

So Toyoda embarked on a quest to become one of the company's top certified test drivers and its top car critic. That challenge and journey combined to forge Toyoda's management priorities, ones that now are reshaping Toyota in a time of crisis.

Global recalls have led to criticism that Toyota has grown deaf to its customers. Toyoda's personal response to the crisis reflects his emerging management style and draws on his car-guy roots:

-- He demands that executives spend more time focused on product.

-- He pushes for a more hands-on approach throughout the company.

-- He is ordering engineers and designers to spice up the brand's bland image

'Go and see'
By getting behind the wheel and scrutinizing product, the 54-year-old Toyoda believes he is living out the company's guiding principle: "Genchi, Genbutsu"--Japanese for "go and see for yourself."

The key is getting out of the laboratory, Toyoda said.

"Lately, there are a lot of left-brain thinkers at Toyota," he said. "People who like to just logically come to conclusions in a meeting room. We may have had a little too much of that."

Toyoda peppers nearly every public address with talk of "seasoning" the company's vehicles so they're less blah and more "fun to drive." He cites a hybrid sports concept unveiled in January, a low-slung convertible based on the MR2, as the kind of product to expect under his tenure.

"I wanted a car that shows what we are aiming for, something affordable, fun to drive and good for the environment," Toyoda said.

Toyoda's business decisions are often rooted in such instincts. This month's snap decision to team with electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc., for instance, came after he test drove its Roadster in the hills of California and deemed it a hot ride.

But most of his first year in office left little time to pursue such visions.

Toyota posted its first loss in seven decades. An unprecedented quality meltdown triggered the recall of more than 8.5 million vehicles worldwide. The problem, Toyoda said, was that the company grew too fast and took its eye off the product.

"Growth in itself is not bad if you can cultivate the human resources to keep up," Toyoda said. "But I don't want to be the largest company in the world. I want to be the best."

Toyoda's love of cars dates to a childhood surrounded by them. In kindergarten, he drew pictures of himself as a race car driver. Under Naruse, he learned a true appreciation for cars.

Naruse first tried to discourage Toyoda, warning of the inherent dangers in extreme driving. But that only egged him on.

"I love driving," Toyoda said. "So when a strict teacher like Naruse is telling me such stuff, it was hardly discouraging. It was more of a turn-on."

Every week for several years, Toyoda practiced high-speed braking, emergency rollover procedures, pursuit driving and controlled spins until he earned his "advanced" certification.

Toyoda believes it all makes him a better CEO--one who, as Naruse exhorted, understands cars and their boundaries.

Toyoda said: "When it comes to our products, being able to know what is good and what is bad is a special skill."

Some observers disagree. Toyoda's incessant test driving and enthusiasm for racing are often derided in the Japanese press as a distracting hobby. Masaaki Sato, a noted Japanese auto industry watcher who has written such books as The House of Toyota and The Toyota Leaders, describes Toyoda as "the emperor with no clothes" who dodges the details while leaving daily business to his top lieutenants.

Last month, Japan's Foresight magazine suggested that a disaffected cohort at the company wants Toyoda to step down. Although no strong candidate exists to replace Akio Toyoda, Foresight pointed to Tetsuro Toyoda, president of Toyota Industries Corp., a machinery affiliate. Testuro is the son of Eiji Toyoda, a former Toyota Motor president.

Akio Toyoda is aware of his detractors. He said becoming an expert driver was partly an effort to win credibility at the engineering-driven company.

"I'm not an engineer," said Toyoda, who joined the company in 1984 after working at an investment bank and consulting firm.

'A common language'
He was looking for "a common language with our engineers. And driving is a tool that can serve as that common language."

His management style has always been about delegating authority to people closest to the action, he says. Underlings describe Toyoda as a big thinker, not a micromanager.

In Japan, his rigid press conference performances usually consist of canned statements. But at Nurburgring, an all-smiles Toyoda showed disarming humility and spontaneity.

Toyoda, surrounded by fellow car enthusiasts, gladly posed for photos. He snapped his own photos--including plenty of his race team's busty, miniskirted race queens.

A relaxed Toyoda roamed the pits making small talk. During the race, fellow driver Ulrich Bez, CEO of Aston Martin, introduced VIPs to his good friend Akio.

At the post-race party to celebrate the Lexus LFA's 18th-place finish in a field of nearly 200 cars, Toyoda led the beer-and-champagne battle that soaked everyone.

But his charismatic performance likely will remain the hidden alter ego of a low-profile, product-focused car guy. "I've been called media-shy, and that's not going to change," Toyoda said. "Here's why: The main actor is the vehicle."

Hands-on scion
A personal look at Akio Toyoda:

Age: 54

Education: Keio University, bachelor's degree, 1979; Babson College, MBA, 1982

Childhood dream: To be a race car driver

First car: Used 4-door Corolla GT; "I was taken with the name GT."

Family: Married, 1 daughter and 1 son

Racing history: 2 appearances at Nurburgring 24-hour endurance race

Other sport: Played on Japanese national field hockey team

Motto: "I can't accomplish anything by myself."

http://www.autoweek.com/article/2010...NEWS/100609999
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Old 06-01-10, 02:41 PM   #19
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Its about time..........seriously........its about time
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Old 06-01-10, 03:05 PM   #20
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I love this quote:

Toyoda said: "When it comes to our products, being able to know what is good and what is bad is a special skill."

Wow, now that was a skill that was mostly lacking with the BIG 3 over the last 10 years when it came to cars (not trucks).
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Old 06-01-10, 03:07 PM   #21
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I love this quote:

Toyoda said: "When it comes to our products, being able to know what is good and what is bad is a special skill."

Wow, now that was a skill that was mostly lacking with the BIG 3 over the last 10 years when it came to cars (not trucks).
I also think it means "going with the gut" and not the consumer groups/surveys. It takes time but considering they brought the LFA I think its a promising sign.

The future products will do the talking....
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Old 06-01-10, 03:20 PM   #22
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I agree that the LFA is one hell of a statement. Its also one hell of a car. I still cant believe the way it sounds
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Old 06-01-10, 03:28 PM   #23
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I also think it means "going with the gut" and not the consumer groups/surveys. It takes time but considering they brought the LFA I think its a promising sign.

The future products will do the talking....
Good point because the only way you can get the good stuff by the top drones and the consumer groups/surveys is to have real car guys at the top. We can see the progression with the progress in the IS-line, F-Sport line, to the LFA. This kind of advanced performance technology benefits the entire Lexus product line over time.
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Old 06-01-10, 03:45 PM   #24
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Good Stuff........lets see where it goes.....
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Old 06-01-10, 03:59 PM   #25
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I honestly would rather see the products coming out already enough with the talking about bringing excitement. Frankly, I don't know what's holding Toyota back (just bring it the FT86 already)
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Old 06-01-10, 06:57 PM   #26
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I think the fact that he can openly admit his fondness for another manufacturers car is very promising. Any boss that walks around like his **** does not stink, is bad for the company. Toyota will be alot better in his hands.
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Old 06-01-10, 07:07 PM   #27
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I'll believe it when I see it, right now its all just talk, no more delaying FT-86 etc... Just do it already.
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Old 06-02-10, 01:23 AM   #28
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It's delayed because of the lame recall mess. The wrong people were in charge at Toyota. Now that Akio is in the helm things should take off. Even if it's delayed there are more cars in the pipeline. A new GS, a new IS, possibly a new LS, all within the next 2 or 3 years. Then the FT-86, Scion gets the IQ, the new Lexus hatch. You can't say they aren't doing anything at all, they're doing what they can. Teaming with Tesla will help as well. Expect some new technology in batteries for sporty cars thanks to their team up.
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