Chief Engineer Suzuki was determined that Flagship 1 would achieve its fuel mileage target of 23.5 miles per gallon and avoid the gas-guzzler tax. When I asked about the tool kit and first aid kit, I did not realize the fierce battle that was being waged to keep the curb weight of the car under 4,000 pounds.
The fuel mileage battle was about weight and aerodynamics. Flagship 1 endured countless refinements to its exterior styling to try to achieve a coefficient of drag of under .30. At one point a spoiler fin was put on the trunk of the car but was rejected as too unsightly for a luxury automobile. The car went through more than 50 wind tunnel tests, creating serious tensions between the design teams and the engineers who were trying to achieve their individual team goals. Window glass, door handles, and the slope of the rear trunk area as well as the underside of the car were all precisely tweaked and re-tweaked to try and meet the CD and styling targets.
It was because of this push for gas mileage that Suzuki-san had to personally approve every additional 35 ounces or 10 grams of weight that was added to the car. Adding a tool kit and first aid kit would add unnecessary weight and eliminate precious, hard-fought-for weight savings in other areas of the car. We sales people wanted these small items, but how important could they really be to the selling of the car? The designers and engineers deeply resented this added unnecessary pressure. The chief engineer was relentless in his push to match the competition in every way, and if this meant that Flagship 1 needed a tool kit and first aid kit, he would find a way!
Several weeks later we received a message from Japan that Flagship 1 would have a tool kit and first aid kit. I was cautioned that the tool kit would consist of a car jack, two lightweight wrenches, a screwdriver, and pliers. The first aid kit would have some small bandages, several towelettes, half an ounce of antiseptic cream, lightweight bandage scissors, and some insect sting treatment. The total additional weight gain, minus the spare tire jack, was less than five pounds.
Suzuki-san was the perfect engineer to make the perfect car because he listened. Some chief engineers are arrogant and know it all, refusing input from others. Suzuki wanted Flagship 1 to the be the best of the best in every way; he listened, pushed himself and his engineers so that Flagship 1 would be “the finest car ever built.”
“The wise listen to others.” Proverbs 12:15 (NLT)
The Flagship 1 could well be “the finest car ever built,” but it was only one car. How could we possibly convince dealers to invest five million dollars to take on a car franchise with only one new car to sell? Lexus desperately needed a second car, but the Toyota engineers were stretched to the breaking point. We pleaded for a second car.
(To be continued in “Gut Check: No Second Car”)