The year of 1991 got off to an ugly start. On January 16, the Gulf War hostilities began with an extensive air campaign that lasted 42 consecutive days and nights with more than 100,000 sorties flown. In response, Iraq fired 88 Scud missiles at Israel, trying to draw the country into the conflict so the Arab nations that were part of the 35-nation coalition aligned against Iraq would withdraw. Israel did not respond.
On January 29, the Iraqi army invaded Saudi Arabia and attacked the city of Khafji. They were quickly defeated. On February 24, the ground battle began when the 1st and 2nd Marine Division crossed into Kuwait. Three days later Hussein ordered his troops to retreat, and President Bush declared Kuwait liberated. But as the Iraqi forces retreated, they implemented a scorched earth policy, setting fire to more than 700 oil wells and surrounding them with land mines so the fires could not be extinguished.
Coalition forces followed the Iraqi army to within 150 miles of Baghdad, inflicting heavy casualties. President Bush ordered U.S. forces to leave Iraq and retreat to Kuwait. A cease fire was declared. By March of 1991, more than 540,000 U.S. troops started moving back to the U.S.
The Gulf War introduced live news broadcasts from the battlefield. New satellite technology made it possible for people around the world to watch live pictures from the scene. The three major networks, NBC, CBS, and ABC, covered all the battles, but it was CNN’s 24-hour reporting that kept events in the public eye continually. I was glued to the television like everyone else. Business slowed dramatically.
Despite the war, the recession, and the cruel 10% luxury tax, the Lexus sales goal for 1991 was raised to 72,000. The LS400 sales target would remain at 42,000. In its final year, the ES250 sales goal was set at 12,000. The new ES300 was to arrive in the fall, and we were expected to sell 8,000. The new SC400 would go on sale in the spring with a yearly sales goal of 12,000.
The dealer count was now up to 121, and we hoped to add another 20 by the end of the year. The customer satisfaction objectives all remained the same for 1991: at or above 90%.
War and car sales don’t mix; we got off to a slow start. Lexus sales in January were down 25% from the previous year. After hostilities ceased, sales started to rebound, but by the end of March we were going to have to make up for the 6,000 lost sales in January and February to reach our 72,000 target by year-end.
“He causes wars to end throughout the earth. He breaks the bow and snaps the spear; he burns the shields with fire.” Psalm 46:9 (NLT)
The Gulf War was over. Bob McCurry and I were in Japan at the Design Dome looking at a possible stretch version of the LS400. There was also another Toyota model to be reviewed. That’s when McCurry turned to me and said, “You need that at Lexus.” I was dumbfounded. “You can’t be serious. Why?” I asked.
(To be continued in “McCurry Sees the Future”)