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Old 11-16-09, 03:13 PM   #1
jruhi4
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Default Akio Toyoda and his quest for "fun to drive"

Akio Toyoda savors flavor of excitement
by Hans Greimel - Automotive News



Akio Toyoda has appointed himself supreme automotive taste tester for Toyota Motor Corp., a kind of master chef overseeing ingredients that go into the automaker's vehicles. But what seasonings will he be pulling from the spice rack to zest up his cars?

His favorite buzz words: "fun to drive."

From a personal point of view, Toyoda the car guy clearly favors high-performance, responsive, sporty cars. Look no further than the Lexus IS-F sedan and LFA sports car, two of the new president's pet projects.

"Cars are not a mere means of mobility," Toyoda blogs under his pseudonym, Morizo, on the company's Japanese-language marketing Web site www.gazoo.com. "They respond to the driver's will; they turn, speed up, slow down. Naturally, there's a need for excitement."

The fuel-efficient, dependable cars that made Toyota famous don't tingle all his taste buds. Blogging about the plethora of environmentally friendly cars at last month's Tokyo Motor Show, Morizo complained: "It was all green. But I wonder how many inspired people to get excited."

He added: "Of course, eco-friendly cars are a prerequisite for the future, but there must be more than that."

One car that set Toyoda's heart revving was the latest Volkswagen Scirocco.

"I'm jealous!" he blogged in July after test driving one. Besides having "cool styling," Toyoda wrote, "It runs incredibly well, to the extent I can't believe it is a 2000cc engine."

Toyoda's conclusion: "Morizo cannot afford to lose. I will tackle the challenge of creating a car with even more splendid flavor than the Scirocco."

Toyoda's quest to inject excitement, style and emotion into his company's lineup adds a new flavoring to the company's long-successful recipe of delivering sensible, reliable, affordable - though sometimes boring - automobiles. It may be a tough balancing act.

"For a lot of people, their first priority is not having a fun-to-drive car," says Chris Richter, an auto analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in Tokyo. "It's simply getting from A to B."

Chieko Tsuneoka contributed to this report

Morizo on motoring
Here are some blog comments from Morizo, Akio Toyoda's online alter ego.

On the Volkswagen Scirocco: "The steering wheel doesn't look good, but once you swing it, it feels good. I also wondered if the A-pillar was too thick, but once I started driving, it didn't bother me."

On fun-to-drive cars: "In order to have cars that inspire dreams and admiration in everyone from children to adults, it is important to appeal to people's sensitivities through the 'flavor' of a car."

On his penchant for racing: "An escape from reality? A hobby? I, Morizo, know many things have been said about my racing. But I have simply loved cars since I was little."

On the value of driving at Nürburgring: "I want more people to understand that cars are forged in racing, and, at the same time, it's a wonderful environment to nurture people."

http://www.autonews.com/article/2009...911139985/1289
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Old 11-16-09, 03:18 PM   #2
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Very happy he is leading this way!
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Old 11-16-09, 03:20 PM   #3
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Very interesting, and from a purely enthusiast viewpoint, what Toyota needs at the right time. That being said, I read this earlier today:

http://www.autonews.com/article/2009...311169957/1117

Quote:
Toyota's chief tester? The boss
Hans Greimel
Automotive News
November 16, 2009 - 12:01 am ET

TOKYO -- Akio Toyoda believes firmly in the value of genchi genbutsu, the Toyota Motor Corp. doctrine of going on site to see for yourself. So the president of the world's biggest carmaker visits factories, drops in on dealerships and takes cars to test tracks.

Lots of cars.

By his own estimate, Toyoda, 53, test drives 200 cars -- Toyota's and rivals' -- a year. Executives say he takes three to the track each week, then pens detailed reports about them.

"It's unbelievable, the number of test-drive reports he sends me," Executive Vice President Yukitoshi Funo says. "I test drive maybe once a month, at best. He test drives all the time."

Toyoda sees his busy schedule behind the wheel as an embodiment of being a hands-on manager. The self-proclaimed car guy says it's more than keeping tabs on the competition. It's about injecting his products with style and flair.

The test drives stand as testimony to Toyoda's commitment to product. But they also raise questions about attempts to infuse the brand with the driving instincts of its boss.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and he's only one set of eyes," says Chris Richter, an auto analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in Tokyo. "A lot of car companies have been driven into the ground by executives who say they have gasoline in their veins."

Chef executive officer


Toyoda compares his role to that of an expert chef seasoning a meal. First, the cook needs a good sense of taste.

"I would like to add some particular seasoning," Toyoda said at a press conference last month. "How can we find this particular seasoning or taste? Ever since I joined Toyota, I've been looking for that by driving myself."

By refining his taste in cars, Toyoda said he can refine the company's products. "As a restaurant analogy, I would like to become the owner-chef," he said. "I should be able to tell differences in tastes -- this is tasty, or maybe we should improve this for the customers."

Toyoda's weekly appraisals chronicle everything from a car's handling and interior to its ranking against rivals, according to Funo. For public consumption, Toyoda blogs about his impressions under the pen name Morizo on Toyota's marketing Web site, www.gazoo.com. In a July entry, he sang the praises of the Volkswagen Scirocco after grinding through its gears.

Toyoda, an avid racing fan, pushes cars beyond mere test spins. He also drives in the 24-hour endurance race at Germany's notoriously demanding Nurburgring circuit.

At last month's Tokyo Motor Show, Toyoda unveiled the Lexus LFA sports car, proudly declaring that he had "personally participated in the flavoring" of the car.

Indeed, Toyoda says he "forged the car" with grueling test drives at Nurburgring.

Need for speed


Few doubt Toyoda's car buff pedigree. As the grandson of the company's founder, he grew up surrounded by cars. The question is how well that translates to business instinct.

The LFA, for example, is an engineering tour de force. But it was launched during an unprecedented global recession with a $375,000 sticker. Even at that stratospheric price, it is expected to lose money.

"If his test driving is just a marketing gesture to show that Toyota is a car enthusiast's company, that's fine," says Tatsuo Yoshida, an auto analyst with UBS Securities in Tokyo. "But if he's really directing product planning based on that, it will be a complete disaster."

Yoshida says car companies need professional test drivers. The key is to drive a car from the perspective of the car's target customer, not from one's personal likes and dislikes, he says.

Speaking in June, shortly after he took office, Toyoda said his top brass often implores him to quit racing because of the risks. But he was adamant he won't slow down.

"It has a lot to do with the development of cars," Toyoda said. "Put another way, you can say that I'm staking my life to come up with a better product."

Chieko Tsuneoka contributed to this report.
The line that sticks out, "If he's planning...disaster." I agree that the 'professonal' 'focus group' type testers are useful, but it also helps to have a clear decisive voice, rather than a general consensus among a group of testers.

And here's a different piece about the challenge Akio faces when dealing with the high yen, excess production capacity, and the 'Made in Japan' forces.

http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/07/toy...-dispatch.html
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Old 11-16-09, 03:34 PM   #4
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I can't express in words how happy I am to be supporting this man and his vision for the company. I truly hope Toyota will extend to me the honor to buy an LFA.

I like how he basically said green was boring (and stupid?), but they need it as an afterthought for marketing purposes.

Financial analysts, etc. who have a stake in Toyota being a boring accountant-run company with only profitability and the bottom line in mind will of course disagree. My response to their drivel is something akin to Bud Adams' in Buffalo this weekend.

P.S. Anyone know where I can buy a Gazoo Racing jacket? I suppose they may not make them in fat American sizes.
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Old 11-16-09, 04:00 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by encore888 View Post
Very interesting, and from a purely enthusiast viewpoint, what Toyota needs at the right time. That being said, I read this earlier today:

http://www.autonews.com/article/2009...311169957/1117

And here's a different piece about the challenge Akio faces when dealing with the high yen, excess production capacity, and the 'Made in Japan' forces.

http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/07/toy...-dispatch.html
Great finds. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 11-16-09, 04:03 PM   #6
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I'm very happy for Toyota. Most 'leaders' only worry about money making, but not this guy!!
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Old 11-16-09, 04:05 PM   #7
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A car nut since childhood, I like that and I can relate.
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Old 11-17-09, 05:05 AM   #8
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indeed - those "analysts" saying how thats bad because marketing research need to create vehicles and not car nuts, are simply... nuts.

I get lucky enough to compare class vehicles when new Toyota is released, and it is quite silly to think that my (car nut) input would not be informative to those suckers when they make obvious mistakes. For instance those two sentences sum it up for Scirocco - drives well but they used too many common parts for the price they are selling it at.

So it is quite good that Toyota president likes cars.
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Old 11-17-09, 05:19 AM   #9
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It funnt to read that one car that set Toyoda's heart revving was the latest Volkswagen Scirocco. A VW, come on, should he be really saying that as the president of the biggest car company in the world.
My feeling is that Toyota will continue to try to make their cars more fun to drive, but they will also continue to stay with their roots, which is reliable and comfortable cars.
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Old 11-17-09, 06:11 AM   #10
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Where has this guy been all of these years?? I like his vision.
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Old 11-17-09, 08:02 AM   #11
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F'in A. This is what Toyota has been missing. These so called "Analysts" are a bunch of twits.
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Old 11-17-09, 08:25 AM   #12
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My feeling is that Toyota will continue to try to make their cars more fun to drive, but they will also continue to stay with their roots, which is reliable and comfortable cars.
I agree completely
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Old 11-18-09, 09:38 PM   #13
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One also recalls that on the trip to the conference where he announced the LFA production decision, Akio Toyoda was initially given a Lexus to drive but opted to test out the Venza for the first time...he liked it.
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Old 11-26-09, 11:05 PM   #14
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I hope his enthusiast ways trickle down to other high level employees
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Old 11-27-09, 07:37 AM   #15
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Quote:
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It funnt to read that one car that set Toyoda's heart revving was the latest Volkswagen Scirocco. A VW, come on, should he be really saying that as the president of the biggest car company in the world.
My feeling is that Toyota will continue to try to make their cars more fun to drive, but they will also continue to stay with their roots, which is reliable and comfortable cars.
thats because you read news prepped by PR and salesman and not by normal techs who actually work on these cars...

it is industry standard to test your competition, and not put the competition down. Toyota higher ups have great respects for all of the competition, and i was told in 2002 by one of the Toyota head hunchos how Hyundai is great company. Things really dont happen overnight as people think.

I dont think that standard Toyota's will be built sportier than now, they will be still built the way sales and marketing people want it, BUT that does not mean that they cant improve certain things. Camry's priority will still be comfort.
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