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"I didn't want this car" - Akio Toyoda, about the 4GS

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Old 08-30-11, 09:47 AM   #1
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Thumbs down "I didn't want this car" - Akio Toyoda, about the 4GS

http://www.autoweek.com/article/2011...NEWS/110829972

By: Mark Rechtin, Automotive News on 8/22/2011

Eighteen months ago, Toyota had all but scrapped its plans for the redesigned Lexus GS 350 sedan that was unveiled in Monterey, Calif., last week.

At the time, the company was pouring engineering resources into resolving its unintended acceleration crisis and was busy changing quality and safety procedures. Plus, the GS' underwhelming sales in the United States and Europe made for a weak business case against the Mercedes E-class and BMW 5-series.

Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda had put the GS on the chopping block, but a last-ditch effort from U.S. and European executives saved the car. In the process, the company overhauled the way Lexus executives report to top management in Japan--giving the luxury brand a stronger voice at the highest levels of the company.

"I didn't want this car," Toyoda said at the debut of the GS, which goes on sale in early 2012. But Lexus' regional management teams "fought me like crazy."

Several top Toyota executives confirmed that the 2013 GS redesign had been as good as dead.

"There were some executives, including Akio, who thought, in terms of our priority list, that the GS should be delayed or canceled," said Andrew Coetzee, now U.S. vice president of Lexus Brand Development. He was a Lexus product planner in Japan at the time.

Coetzee says Toyoda's pessimism resulted from the many layers of Japanese executives through which Lexus' overseas managers reported. Only when Lexus' global team members appealed directly to Toyoda did the boss change his mind.

Company officials say Toyoda decided there was a flaw in the system. As part of the company's management reorganization in April, he created a new reporting structure that gives Lexus more influence.

Previously, at least four layers of r&d, sales and marketing executives in Japan separated Toyoda from overseas executives responsible for the Lexus brand. But a new Lexus Product and Market Planning Division was formed with a direct line to Toyoda.

The division is headed by Japan-based executive Karl Schlicht, who reports to managing officer Kiyotaka Ise. Ise, whose only responsibility is Lexus, reports to Toyoda.

Coetzee admitted that "things were not done well" with the current bland and bloated GS, and that the lineup was "missing something" between the entry-luxury ES and IS sedans and the flagship LS. The GS needed to represent "a premium car with premium chassis technology ... a step up in dynamics and status."

The GS has been a continual underachiever compared with the 5-series, E-class and Audi A6. The current generation's sales peaked at 27,390 units in 2006, tapering off to 7,059 last year.

But the redesigned 2013 GS displays the sheet metal and interior design cues that will carry across the brand for the next several years.

"The GS may be low volume [in the past], but it is symbolic of the new Lexus," said Yoshi Inaba, CEO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

Lexus says the 2013 GS 350 uses an all-new platform with a 2-inch wider track. Its wheelbase remains the same but the car is longer, wider and taller than the old model.

The GS will be offered with only a V6 and V6 hybrid. A V8 version was part of the previous two generations but was only about 10 percent of the model mix.

Using a carryover 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed sequential-shift transmission, the GS 350 accelerates from 0-to-60 mph in 5.7 seconds, the same as the current model. The GS will still be offered in rear- and all-wheel drive versions.

The GS' front suspension remains mostly unchanged but uses larger bushings. The rear subframe has been redesigned, with new geometry for its multilink suspension.

Unlike the concept car that debuted at the New York auto show in April, the GS' front fascia does not use a grille that extends uninterrupted from the hoodline to the chin spoiler. Instead, the trapezoidal "spindle" grille is interrupted by a horizontal strip that carries through from the bumper. As for its overall appearance, the GS looks more like a big brother to the sporty IS sedan.

The hybrid version will be unveiled at the Frankfurt auto show next month. An F-Sport model, equipped with a suspension and body package, and possibly a supercharger, will be seen at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in November in Las Vegas.


Now we know why the 4GS is half *** effort with no V8, old V6, and old 6 Auto. After reading this, my hope for a GS-F is almost gone.
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Old 08-30-11, 10:06 AM   #2
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I don't believe this story. Lexus does need some new blood in the front office to stir some emotion in the product though. Hire Chip Foose as a consultant in the design & development department. This GS needs muscle & charecter. It does not evoke it imo.
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Old 08-30-11, 10:15 AM   #3
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Honestly I'm beginning to think Toyoda is running the company to the ground. Even considering killing a car like the GS for a brand that desperately needs it shows a huge disconnect between him, the brand, the market place and the rest of the industry.
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Old 08-30-11, 10:31 AM   #4
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Well it's hard to fault him for wanting to get rid of the GS. At the time, the GS sales weren't so spectacular. It was almost ignored as the E and the 5 dominated the segment. With this new driving dynamic (something missing from all previous GS), I have no doubt they'll take away some 5-series sales. Many love the driving dynamics of the 5-series, but would rather not deal with problems.

While they claim V8s only account for 10% of the sales, I think its important to include it in the lineup anyways. They don't need to spend a tremendous amount on creating a new V8. Bring over the 5.0L and transmission from the ISF and slap on the F-sport badge. It'll give Lexus some halo-effect that's comparable to the BMW 550 Sport.
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Old 08-30-11, 10:32 AM   #5
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on the otherhand, there is now better communication put into place; so toyoda should be able to hear and react faster than before now that bureaucratic red tape has been reduced.
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Old 08-30-11, 10:34 AM   #6
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He mentioned all of that in the launch video. He then stated <paraphrasing> "they were right to convince me to keep the car and make it better".

I think the article is positive for the brand as they recognized it was not properly managed and took steps to correct. Compare that to other manufacturers that are clearly broken, but continue to operate the same old way as always.
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Old 08-30-11, 10:36 AM   #7
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Toyoda is like Jim Dolan of the Knicks. Lots of Money - Zero Brains

The LFA was basically a custom toy built bec Toyoda desired it. He obviously didn't mind spending countless of resources on it.
But for the GS, which should be the bread and butter sales car for Lexus like the E Class and 5 Series, he didn't feel its important???
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Old 08-30-11, 10:44 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by GSteg View Post
Well it's hard to fault him for wanting to get rid of the GS. At the time, the GS sales weren't so spectacular. It was almost ignored as the E and the 5 dominated the segment. With this new driving dynamic (something missing from all previous GS), I have no doubt they'll take away some 5-series sales. Many love the driving dynamics of the 5-series, but would rather not deal with problems.

While they claim V8s only account for 10% of the sales, I think its important to include it in the lineup anyways. They don't need to spend a tremendous amount on creating a new V8. Bring over the 5.0L and transmission from the ISF and slap on the F-sport badge. It'll give Lexus some halo-effect that's comparable to the BMW 550 Sport.
The 3GS was a great car and it sold very well in its first 2-3 years. After that it seems they completely forgot about the car and began focusing on niche, ugly and slow selling Toyota based hybrids like the HS. Hopefully the focus has re-shifted now.
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Old 08-30-11, 10:47 AM   #9
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True Story..... I was there to hear him speak!!!

But old news I guess..

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Report: Lexus GS Almost Cancelled by Akio Toyoda


Source: LexusEnthusiast.com

Quote:
Originally Posted by krew
Posted by krew on August 23rd, 2011

Click the image to open in full size.

Have to share this excellent AutoWeek article by Mark Rechtin that details how the Lexus GS was almost cancelled due to internal bureaucracy:
  • Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda had put the GS on the chopping block, but a last-ditch effort from U.S. and European executives saved the car. In the process, the company overhauled the way Lexus executives report to top management in Japan–giving the luxury brand a stronger voice at the highest levels of the company.
  • “I didn’t want this car,” Toyoda said at the debut of the GS, which goes on sale in early 2012. But Lexus’ regional management teams “fought me like crazy.”
  • “There were some executives, including Akio, who thought, in terms of our priority list, that the GS should be delayed or canceled,” said Andrew Coetzee, now U.S. vice president of Lexus Brand Development.
  • Coetzee says Toyoda’s pessimism resulted from the many layers of Japanese executives through which Lexus’ overseas managers reported. Only when Lexus’ global team members appealed directly to Toyoda did the boss change his mind.

Even though it’s almost impossible to imagine a Lexus lineup without the GS, it’s easy to see how the third-generation GS’ poor sales and general inability to compete with the segment leaders would lead to some very difficult decisions.

Now, corporate handwringing is one thing, but how Akio Toyoda dealt with the issue is another:
  • Company officials say Toyoda decided there was a flaw in the system. As part of the company’s management reorganization in April, he created a new reporting structure that gives Lexus more influence.
  • Previously, at least four layers of r&d, sales and marketing executives in Japan separated Toyoda from overseas executives responsible for the Lexus brand. But a new Lexus Product and Market Planning Division was formed with a direct line to Toyoda.
  • The division is headed by Japan-based executive Karl Schlicht, who reports to managing officer Kiyotaka Ise. Ise, whose only responsibility is Lexus, reports to Toyoda.

Unafraid to change his mind, Toyoda-san saw a fundamental issue that needed addressing and then set about solving the real problem, cutting away the levels between himself and the people responsible for the brand’s direction.

Of course, by surviving its near-cancellation and causing all this high-level change as a result, the fourth-generation Lexus GS also has to live up to some heightened expectations — something that’s hinted by this comment by TMS CEO Yoshi Inaba:
  • The GS may be low volume [in the past], but it is symbolic of the new Lexus,” said Yoshi Inaba, CEO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

Considering the early test drive reviews and my time with the car last week, I think this new GS has what it takes to truly compete in the market, especially considering this final article quote:
  • The hybrid version will be unveiled at the Frankfurt auto show next month. An F-Sport model, equipped with a suspension and body package, and possibly a supercharger, will be seen at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in November in Las Vegas

I’ve been hearing whispers about a GS supercharger since early this year, though this is the first media mention I’ve seen — needless to say, there’s some very exciting times ahead

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Old 08-30-11, 11:11 AM   #10
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...But for the GS, which should be the bread and butter sales car for Lexus like the E Class and 5 Series, he didn't feel its important???
Wait, what? The GS has NEVER and WILL NEVER be Lexus's bread and butter in terms of sales. The ES and RX lead the league in sales and always have.

With the way the 4GS looks, they should have just scrapped it all together.
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Old 08-30-11, 12:26 PM   #11
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Akio saved the car, there was lackluster sales but he LISTENED. That's key. He's in charge, but seriously not one CEO is all knowing in the goings on in their company. It was due to the lack of communication that things like this happen. Now that is done away with, he'll be better able to hear what is needed to be competitive in this segment and market. Clown him if you want, but without him there'd be blandness in Lexus still. No one wants that from them though, but you're ready to lynch Akio for being truthful. PRIORITIES were his main concern. UA cases, Government hearings, recalls... but you guys wanna complain about carry over engines and 'no GS-F' when no one here is in his shoes. You gotta look at it through his eyes to understand what was really going on.
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Old 08-30-11, 12:53 PM   #12
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...but seriously not one CEO is all knowing in the goings on in their company. ...
Steve Jobs.
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Old 08-30-11, 01:14 PM   #13
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Steve Jobs.
How long did it take Steve Jobs to get Apple to where it is today? Longer than many of us here been born.
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Old 08-30-11, 01:27 PM   #14
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this is what happens when a entry level car luxury car such as the ES cannibalizes the entry and mid level segments.

same size, same car, same feel, 10k to 15k less, most will take the ES. Nobody really cares about the front wheel drive rear wheel drive thing no more.

it's about how the market sizes up the offerings, not what the company thinks it should be sized up.

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Old 08-30-11, 05:31 PM   #15
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Wow, amazing story if true. If Toyoda wondered why the GS wasn't selling in this segment, all he had to do was read any number of car mag comparos, or other evaluations. The product had gotten stale, uncompetitive, and was just not exciting to many shopping for this class of car.

His reluctance to try to do something about this (i.e. new engines, transmissions, suspension packages, styling tweaks, whatever) in mid-cycle, plus a big advertising effort to try to get the car moving is regrettable, and shows little vision on his part.

Unfortunately, this not the only example of a laid-back approach to marketing on the part of Japanese executives. Look at the Acura RL. This is not a bad car, but has languished for many years on showroom floors, unloved and unsold. There was some buzz when Honda did the redesign some years ago with SH-AWD, etc, but even this fell short (lots of road noise in a luxury car, etc). Did they do anything about it? Nooooooooo! Better to let it sit on dealer lots year after year than to make some changes to get it to sell.

The new GS looks good so far, but as many have already pointed out in this thread, there are questions (V8, transmission options, etc) that already make this launch uncertain. If it does not go off with a bang, or if Lexus does not take the early returns and make whatever changes are needed to spur some interest with an early mid-cycle, then maybe Toyoda ought to follow through with his original intention and just kill it.
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Old 08-30-11, 05:31 PM
 
 
 
 
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