How the GS Sedan was rescued by the execs at Lexus

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Old 28 Aug 2011, 09:18 pm   #1 (permalink)
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Default How the GS Sedan was rescued by the execs at Lexus

Interesting story from AW

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

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

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

"The GS may be low volume , but it is symbolic of
the new Lexus," said Yoshi Inaba, CEO of Toyota Motor Sales

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

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.

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