While Lexus was in the beginning stages of our start-up, the rest of the world was experiencing new beginnings of a different nature.
The Soviet Union was pulling out of Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden was forming Al Qaeda. The first major virus worm-infected computers connected to the internet. An earthquake killed 60,000 people in Armenia. A terrorist’s bomb exploded on Pan Am flight #103 over Lockerbie, Scotland killing all on board while one third of Yellowstone National Park was destroyed by a forest fire. A new line of toys named the “Transformers” was a big hit with children while a new anti-depressant drug, Prozac, was a big hit with the adults. George Bush was elected President of the United States and Sonny Bono was elected mayor of Palm Springs, California. Meanwhile, the top song on the music charts was Bobby McFerrin’s, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
In 1988, the auto industry was better than most expected after the stock market crash of October 1987. The number one selling vehicle in the U.S. was the Ford pickup at $589,000 plus in sales while the number one selling car was the Ford Escort with over $389,000 in sales. The US manufacturer’s sales were up 12% while Toyota sales were up 13%, although Toyota sales were hampered by a continuing low day supply of cars. Another worry was in the luxury car market; sales were down slightly.
After 10 years of operation, Volkswagen was closing its plant in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, Toyota was opening a new plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune Bob McCurry predicted, “Toyota will sell 1.5 million cars and trucks a year by 1995 and 50% of those vehicles will be built in the U.S.”
Lexus was only nine months from its introduction date set for September 1989, six months from the first production line-off set for June 1989 and 10 days from being introduced to the International Automotive Press in Detroit, Michigan.
On the home front, we were busting at the seams with five children. Emily was a year old and needed a room of her own. Spencer and Greer shared a bedroom while Blair and Trevor shared one of their own. Greer couldn’t sleep because his older brother, Spencer, kept terrorizing him at night by telling him the boogieman was going to get him. Trevor was a night owl and Blair was a morning person. Things were a little crazy but the idea of selling our home, buying a new one and moving again in the coming months with everything else that was going on made my head spin. Still, I had a job – don’t worry, be happy.
“When doubts filled my mind your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” Psalm 94:19 (NLT)
All of the automotive manufacturers from around the world and a global press corps of 1,000 writers would be in Detroit in just 10 days to see the no-name LS400.
(to be continued in, “Chaos in Detroit”)