The Product Planning Department in the U.S. started searching for a four-door sedan that was different from the Camry. These sedans were sold in other countries, but might also be sold in the U.S. as a near-luxury four-door sedan until the all-new F3 would be available. There were two possibilities. The Carina ED was sold in Japan, and the Vista was sold in Japan and Europe.
Both vehicles were small with only 99-inch wheelbases versus the Camry that had a 102-inch wheelbase. The Carina ED was based on the Celica platform and was just too small, making it unacceptable. The Vista was a possibility. It was a hardtop, four- door sedan with no center pillar. It had different front-end and rear styling treatments compared to the Camry. It came with a V-6 instead of an in-line six-cylinder and was sold in Japan and Europe.
John Koenig, National Product Planning Manager of Toyota Motor Sales, USA; the Lexus Japan Staff Coordinator, John French; and I went back to Japan to meet with the chief engineer of the Vista.
In the design dome we walked around the car telling the chief engineer what we needed. We wanted wheels to match the Flagship 1, lower-body side molding to match Flagship 1, higher-quality paint to match Flagship 1, two-tone interior to match Flagship 1, leather interior wrapped and leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob, higher-quality Pioneer audio system, security system, tilt wheel, and airbags.
The chief engineer was highly agitated and objected strongly to the task he and his team were unexpectedly given. He gave our Lexus Japan Staff Coordinator a look pleading for mercy. He could not possibly accomplish all this additional work these young Americans were demanding of him. It meant changing all of his engineers’ work schedules and delaying products for other markets for years. No mercy was granted. Most of the changes were cosmetic, but the tilt wheel and airbag could not be done in time. We had to choose one or the other, and we picked the airbag for safety.
As I watched and listened, a real sense of concern came over me. I was beginning to understand the impossible pressure and demands that were being made of the engineers for both F1 and F3. I began praying for them daily by name.
“Strategic planning is key to warfare; to win, you need a lot of good counsel.” Proverbs 24:6 (MSG)
With an acceptable second car in place and an all-new F3 coming about 18 months after the launch of Flagship 1, a sense of wellbeing settled over me. It didn’t last long. A stunning, unexpected, and unsettling announcement from our arch-enemy, Nissan, would upset my sense of wellbeing.
(To be continued in “Our Nissan Nemesis: Infiniti”)