Wednesday, February 29, 2012

If you recently joined the Lexus family at Lexus of Orlando, tomorrow evening will be the 22nd Lexus of Orlando New Owner Welcome event!

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We will have a grand prize drawing for a (1) night stay for two at the Ritz Carlton, Grande Lakes Resort, Orlando! If you have received an invitation and have not yet RSVP’d please call 888.249.9888 or email


This event is for those who have purchased vehicles from November 01, 2011 through January 31, 2012.

Lexus Launches New Facebook Page with Cover Photo and Timeline

Today, Lexus is among a small group of brands to unveil a new Facebook® Page ( that optimizes the new features by telling the brand’s story through a highly visual and organized timeline while still allowing Lexus enthusiasts to dialogue and interact with the brand. The launch coincides with the brand reaching one million fans on the social networking site this week. To gather stories for the new Page, the Lexus team talked to automotive historians, met with Lexus archivists and spent hours at the Toyota USA Automobile Museum reviewing old film, photos and artifacts.

The launch cover photo features Lexus’ futuristic new 2+2 coupe LF-LC concept vehicle, while the timeline exemplifies the brand’s evolution and pursuit of perfection during the last 23 years. More than 80 stories have been added to the Page dating back to before the brand’s launch in 1989.

All major vehicle launches, redesigns and concept cars – from the original Lexus LS 400 to the all-new 2013 Lexus GS – have been added to the timeline. Additionally, Lexus added backdated posts to include pre-Facebook updates like the one millionth Lexus sold in the U.S. in Nov.1999.

“Researching the information for our new Facebook Page became a very personal and introspective process for the team,” said Brian Smith, Lexus vice president of marketing. “It was fascinating to look back at our rich history and see the many ideas and innovations that have come from Lexus. We are proud to be one of the first brands invited to explore Facebook’s new platform, and we hope our fans enjoy the new experience.”

Lexus’ new Facebook Page will also showcase “Lexus World Firsts” that tout the brand’s contributions to the automotive industry including the world’s first Mark Levinson automotive sound system and the world's first advanced parking guidance system in a luxury vehicle.

Other key milestones are:

  • Dec. 2000 – Lexus is named the best-selling luxury automotive manufacturer in the United States
  • Jan. 2002 – Lexus develops the Lexus 2054 concept car for Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report
  • Jan. 2004 – World premiere of the first luxury hybrid SUV, the Lexus RX 400h

Courtesy of ToyotaPressroom

The Desert Challenge: My Weekend with Joe Bacal & His LX Racer Part 2

For a weekend in January, I became an official member of Joe Bacal’s JTGrey racing team, who are entering the 2012 SCORE off-road season with a brand new LX 570 race truck. The following is the second part of a three part series detailing my experience.


The subdued mood continues through to Saturday morning, with the entire team resigned to the possibility that the LX may not make it a single time around the track.

Even with the uncertainty, Bryan is upbeat and excited to be sitting in the passenger seat, and pretty soon his enthusiasm has spread, with Joe promising him at least one good jump regardless of any electrical gremlins.


Leaving everyone to make the final preparations, I head out onto the track in my orange Media vest with hopes of getting two or three photos before the LX quits. However, I soon realize this is not an easy task — although the course is a loop, the track runs like a scribble in the mud, and it’s virtually impossible to see the entire race from any one vantage point. No matter what position I chose, I’ll only be able to see the LX for thirty seconds at a time.

Soon enough, Joe & Bryan reach the start line, and the green flag waves them through the gate:

Lexus LX Starting Line

From there, the LX starts down the straight, disappears over the first hill and leaves me wondering if I would see the truck again before the race’s eighty minute time limit is reached.

To pass the time, I busy myself by taking photos of the other trucks:

Laughlin Competitors 1

Laughlin Competitors 2

Laughlin Competitors 3

On average, it should take Joe no more than nine and a half minutes to make it around the track, so eleven minutes into the first lap, it’s easy to imagine a worst-case scenario — but soon enough, I spot the LX right before this jump that launches it into the air:

Lexus LX First Jump

Despite all our earlier worrying, the LX appears to be running like a champ, and soon a pattern emerges — every nine minutes, Joe, Bryan and the LX hit my area of the track and I snap photos until they disappear again:

Lexus LX Action 1

Lexus LX Action 2

Lexus LX Action 3

Forty-nine minutes later, Joe & Brian take second place in the Stock Full class:

Joe Bacal & Bryan Stordahl

Once he’s settled back at the tent after the race, Joe gives me the full story, explaining that the LX went into limp mode ten times during the five laps, including two times when they were just about to pass the leader and take first place.

Bryan feels the same way. “At first, I was just excited to be there and have the opportunity to be in the truck,” he explains to me, “but when things started going and we were actually competing, that was something else. When we missed the leader at the end and finished second, I really was disappointed because we were so close.”

That night at dinner, Joe asks me how I’m feeling about the race tomorrow morning. I let him know that I’m little nervous, and that even after talking with Bryan about his experience, I still don’t know exactly what to expect.

In response, Joe pulls out his iPhone and shows me this video of a crash that happened earlier that day between two Trophy Trucks:

“Things can go really bad, you know,” he tells me, his face halfway between serious and teasing.

Check back tomorrow for the final part of my weekend with Joe & the JTGrey Racing Team!


Courtesy of LexusEnthusiast

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The 2013 GS is the culmination of a million decisions. It represents where you see yourself going and how you choose to get there. It's our boldest response ever.

Alex Wurz gets behind the wheel of the Lexus LFA

We can attest to the joys of driving the Lexus LFA, having spent several days this past fall becoming addicted to the 4.8-liter V10 and race-bred suspension. We aren't the only ones who have developed an affection for the $400,000 Lexus supercar, though. Alex Wurz, former Formula 1 driver and two-time Le Mans winner, recently got behind the wheel of the LFA and seemed duly impressed.

Not one to just take the LFA out for a lazy drive, Wurz makes proper use of all 552 horsepower and 9,000 rpm running the Estoril Circuit in Portugal. After a few laps of pushing the supercar around the track, Wurz heaps praise on the LFA for its super-aggressive looks, neutral handling, and the sound of the downshifts from the V10.

If you want to see a video of the Lexus LFA being driven the way it was intended, then hit the jump and turn up your speakers.

Courtesy of AutoBlog

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Desert Challenge: My Weekend with Joe Bacal & His Lexus LX Racer Part One

[[posterous-content:pid___0]]For a weekend in January, I became an official member of Joe Bacal’s JTGrey racing team, who are entering the 2012 SCORE off-road season with a brand new LX 570 race truck. The following is the first part of a three part series detailing my experience.


After a day spent flying across the country and a night driving through the Mojave desert, I wake up at the River Palms hotel in Laughlin, Nevada, where I’ve joined Joe Bacal and his JTGrey Racing team for the Laughlin Desert Challenge — the very first event of the new SCORE off-road season and the debut of Joe’s new LX 570 race truck.

I’m scheduled to race on Sunday, and in preparation, I’ve arranged to head over to the track to get myself acclimatized. Down in the hotel lobby, I meet up with Joe’s wife Teresa, their son Greyson, and Bryan Stordahl, who will be Joe’s co-driver on Saturday.

Today is the final opportunity for testing & tweaking before the weekend’s races, and when we reach the track, Joe has just completed his first trial run.


Lexus LX Racer Standing Still

Finished just two days earlier, the new LX is running well but is essentially untested, and there’s some teething issues as a result — during the first practice run, the transmission stays in automatic mode, instead of the sequential manual mode that allows Joe to control his gear shifting.

Not being in control of the transmission is one thing, but on Joe’s second practice run, the LX enters Limp Mode, which throws the SUV’s giant 5.7L V8 engine into a four-cylinder safety setting and limits the speed to around 10 mph. Restarting the engine resets the ECU and fixes the issue temporarily, but Limp mode soon returns. “We eliminated so many sensors and wires trying to clean up the system from our first-gen LX,” Joe tells me, “and I’ve had zero test time in the SUV until today. We simply ran out of time.”

Making matters worse, the Laughlin Desert Challenge has now been divided into two separate races instead of a single race stretched out over two days. This means the weekend is worth double the points in the overall standings — not being able to race would be disastrous for Joe’s season.

Looking over the Lexus LX Racer

To avoid getting in the way, Bryan and I head out for lunch, leaving Joe and Lexus engineer Brian Reilly to work on the LX. Over at In-N-Out burgers, I learn Bryan’s story — how he met Joe while both were being treated for cancer, how he suffers from an extremely rare form of the disease and remains in treatment, and most importantly, just how excited he is to have a chance to race with Joe. At this point, the race takes on a deeper significance, so we turn to positive thoughts and a belief that things will work out in the end.

When the team meets for dinner, there is some good news. Engineer Brian believes that stretched wiring to the ECU is the culprit behind the LX electrical problems — unfortunately, there’s no way to fix the issue before tomorrow’s race.

At this point, we all do our best to ignore the dark cloud hanging over the table, and take to hoping for an early morning miracle.

Courtesy of LexusEnthusiast

The Great American Race is Back On! Don't miss this exciting event!

NASCAR officials have once again decided to delay the start of the Daytona 500, and their Sprint Cup season, on account of rain, this time pushing the contest back from noon today to 7PM EST. Steady rain is called for in the region through 6PM, which should give NASCAR about an hour to dry off the track. If everything goes according to plan, you'll be able to watch the race on FOX beginning at 7PM EST.

Courtesy of AutoBlog

Fact: Lexus Fans Can Drive

Here’s a recent observation about Lexus fans: they definitely have skills when it comes to driving hard.

This much was evident at California’s Auto Club Speedway two weekends ago, where more than a hundred Lexus fans volunteered to test-drive the 2013 GS on three different courses.


On one course, drivers competed against each other in a timed autocross, where, after zipping through a tightly curved circuit, each driver’s time popped up on a scoreboard (fans with the best times earned a speed lap in the LFA on another nearby course):

After the first 10 course runs, it started to dawn on event organizers that the average Lexus fan takes performance driving pretty seriously—and knows a thing or two about acceleration.

On another course, fans were asked to chase pro drivers at higher speeds—let’s just say they had no problem keeping up.

By the way, the 2013 GS is now in dealerships, so you can test-drive one yourself—your dealer won’t keep score, but it’ll still be a thrill ride.


Courtesy of LexusMagazine

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Slam Dunk contest is one of the most watched events in the NBA All-Star weekend! Who are you looking forward to seeing this year?


New Discovery Documentary Examines Safe Driving For All Ages

New drivers, older drivers, passengers and pedestrians alike, we are all precious cargo – and the stakes are high at any age when you get behind the wheel.  Now, Discovery Channel and Discovery Education, in partnership with Toyota, present LIFE BEHIND THE WHEEL, airing Saturday, March 3 at 8am e/p, a comprehensive look at safe driving habits from generation to generation. An encore presentation airs on Saturday, May 5, 2012.

Today’s driving statistics are staggering:

  • 70% of all child car seats in the U.S. are improperly installed. 
  • Vehicle crashes are the single greatest cause of death for teenagers.
  • A driver is 8 – 23 times more likely to crash if texting while driving.
  • Fatality rates per mile driven for 75-79 year olds are more than four times as high as those for 30-59 year olds. 
Across the nation, hospitals, universities and corporations are partnering with one another to tackle these critical issues and decrease fatalities.  From Toyota’s innovative “Buckle Up for Life” community outreach program with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital educating parents on proper car seat installation to new technology allowing parents to monitor and track their teen’s driving habits and MIT’s groundbreaking empathy suit designed to teach us all about the challenges faced by older drivers on the road, LIFE BEHIND THE WHEEL showcases a broad range of driver education and attempts to offer real solutions.

“At Toyota, safety is a priority in everything we do, we are focused on making sure drivers everywhere have the resources they need to keep their families, friends and loved ones safe and secure,” said Pat Pineda, Group Vice President, National Philanthropy, Toyota Motor North America, Inc. “Toyota’s partnership with Discovery Channel is significant and underscores our efforts to keep the roads safe for all.”

“We are proud to partner with Toyota for this important documentary.  Safe driving is a life-long lesson.  LIFE BEHIND THE WHEEL gives people of all ages critical information while highlighting important new strides in technology that are creating better drivers and saving lives along the way,” said John Whyte, MD, Chief Medical Expert for Discovery Channel.

LIFE BEHIND THE WHEEL is available for free download at or on iTunes. In addition, portions of the documentary will be available, a free, online program in partnership with Discovery Education designed to provide safety educational resources to schools, educators, parents and students.

LIFE BEHIND THE WHEEL is produced with support from Toyota.

Courtesy of ToyotaMediaNewsroom

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Orlando ready to revive its All-Star magic in Amway Center

NBA All-Star weekend, it's been 20 long years! Welcome back to Orlando! Where magic happens! At least when reality doesn't interfere ... and the recession stops by ... and the lines shorten at Walt Disney World ... and the screams grow fainter at Universal Studios ... and the foreclosures deliver a swift kick to Kissimmee ... and unemployment soars like steamy afternoons in July.

Yes, like many cities, especially in Florida, the epicenter of the economic earthquake, Orlando is trying to rally. When disposable dollars dried up and tourism took a hit, well, just imagine the Magic without Dwight Howard. (You might hear about Dwight oh, once or a million times this weekend.) The double whammy of real estate woes and squeezed family budgets threaten to cripple the world's greatest tourist destination.

Suddenly, the city that loved to slap an exclamation point next to its name -- come visit Orlando! -- was stuck with a question mark instead. As in, when does relief arrive?

One basketball-fueled weekend won't exactly tip the Central Florida economy into the black all by itself. Still, the goal for Orlando is to be that same city that hosted the 1992 All-Star Game, the one where Magic! (Johnson) happened. To that end, Orlando will trot out the Amway Center, a $480 million symbol of hope that was built smack in the middle of hard times. Orlando doesn't get the game without it, doesn't sell its recovery to a big audience without it and doesn't reinvent itself without it.

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"Part of the context of building this building was attracting the NBA All-Star game and other events," said Alex Martins, chief executive officer of the Magic. "We said a new building wasn't just about the Magic. It was about our city and what we were missing. All the big concerts were going to Tampa. We haven't had a conference college basketball tourney since the early 1990s. No major organizing sports body has brought anything to us since early 90s."

And just think, a few months ago, the NBA season and the weekend itself were in jeopardy of not happening, phased out by a lockout. The game was promised to Orlando on May 4, 2010, and hotels and businesses were banking on the windfall.

"That would have been a blow to our city," Martins said. "I told David Stern he'd better put me in witness protection if that happens."

So the city that knows something about entertaining will happily host a slam dunk contest that may or may not involve an economy car, a handful of hip-hop parties to which you're not invited, and the debut of the ballyhooed box office attraction that promises to dwarf both Space Mountain and the Harry Potter Hogwarts ride. Yes, Jeremy Lin is in the house!

"Everyone will see that Orlando's not bad, and will put on a show," said Howard, who then refused to say if he plans to stick around for the after-party.

Back in '92, Orlando was exactly the type of city that professional sports craved that decade. It was a medium-sized 'burgh suddenly flush with new money and enjoying a population boom, where people quickly began to multiply faster than Palmetto bugs and strip malls.

The NBA expanded to Orlando three years earlier and success was instantaneous; sellout crowds crammed a then-brand new arena (the Orlando Arena, later known as Amway Arena) that astonishingly became outdated in about 15 minutes.


Amway Arena, which originally opened as the Orlando Arena in 1989, housed the Magic until 2010.
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Not only was Orlando defined as Las Vegas for children, but also professional athletes, who built airplane hanger-sized mansions in lake-dotted communities like Isleworth, home to Tiger Woods, Shaquille O'Neal and many others.

In a sense, Orlando's growth and popularity arc was a lot like the NBA's in the 80s, when prosperity ruled and troublesome signs weren't visible on the radar. The NBA had Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan; Orlando had Mickey, Goofy and, in a few years, Shaq and Penny Hardaway. Theme parks were swelling, orange groves were cleared for housing developments -- it was as if Orlando had cashed in on the lottery, like the Magic did when a pair of ping-pong balls turned into Shaq and Penny.

Golf courses sprung up everywhere, further hiking real estate prices ever so unrealistically, as well-moneyed northerners snapped up second homes and timeshares. And they also bought choice seats at Magic games to see a team that was supposedly the next dynasty. Or as Shaq once said, regarding he and Hardaway, "the next Magic and Kareem."

But then Shaq left for Hollywood in 1996 as a free agent, Penny hurt his knee (several times), Grant Hill arrived as damaged goods in 2000 from Detroit as a free agent. Even though another ping-pong ball became Howard, the No. 1 pick in the 2004 Draft, he's not sold on spending his foreseeable career in Orlando.

And this was the good news.

"Central Florida was one of the hardest hit in terms of housing," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. "Home building is pretty much non-existent right now. We had an extreme correction in terms of market price and number of foreclosures.

"Tourism was down double digits. We had three straight years of double-digit decline in our tourist development tax. People postponed or didn't do vacations. It was a significant decline in our tourism economy. We came back strong in the last year, with 51 million visitors. But it's going to be a slow, steady recovery. We had a presentation by our convention and visitors bureau the other day and they mentioned it would be impossible to purchase the type of advertising and exposure that we'll get from the All-Star Game."

At least Orlando's timing was solid, in another sense. All the bonds and financials were secured for the construction of Amway Center (along with a new performing arts building) just prior to the economic uppercut. Amway Center, not to be confused with the soon-to-be-bulldozed Amway Arena, was the town's boldest project in recent history. In a spirit of cooperation that's uncommon in cities, especially in the midst of historic decline, city, county and team officials made it work. The public-private partnership ensured the arena was finished on time and on budget.

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"It was certainly challenging but also some advantages as well," Martins said. "We were able to stretch the construction budget further than we could've imagined because the construction industry had nothing else going on. As many disadvantages as one could perceive when building in a down economy, the workforce was available, material pricing was low and we had no major delays.

"We walked into the building with all the suites sold, had highest corporate partnership in the history of the organization and the highest season ticket base in the history of the organization. And I think that speaks to how starving our community was for a first class building."

As for the impact of the weekend, "it will be $100 million. The theme parks will get a shot in the arm at a time of the year when they don't get their highest visitation. This comes at a necessary time."

Rich DeVos, the longtime owner of the Magic, hopes to see his team win a title for Orlando.
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

One of the main figures in the construction of the building -- and the Magic -- is slowly withdrawing from both. Rich DeVos, the grandfatherly Magic owner, has gradually distributed much of his shares of the team to his children and even grandchildren, mostly for estate-planning purposes. At 85, Devos has the team run by Martins (who was the Magic's PR director during the '92 All-Star Game) and Dan DeVos, one of his sons.

"This team will be in our family for a long, long, time," said Rich DeVos.

The family patriarch mostly gets around by wheelchair these days and there's a groundswell of support within the family and the organization to win one for Mr. D.

"The pleasure he gets out of owning this team and what it does for this city has brought a dynamic to his life that maybe he didn't have before," Martins said. "If it weren't for him this arena wouldn't be built. He contributed more of his own money to this building than any owner has to a public facility. This will be part of his legacy. It's going to mean a lot for the economy when big events come here on a regular basis."

DeVos is both amused and touched by the sentiment, but he makes one thing clear.

"I want to win a ring," he said, "but it's not for me, it's for them."

And so Orlando, ever so gingerly, is taking steps toward better days. For the city and for the Magic. The arena is the common link between the two and will remain in place, well beyond the weekend, when Orlando hopes to get tourists to arrive and the Magic hopes to keep Dwight Howard from leaving.

So enjoy the weekend in Orlando! Where the city is out to prove it's on the turnpike to recovery! Oh, and spread the word, now is the perfect time to visit! Because Orlando has the most attractions in the world! Now featuring Jeremy Lin! (For a day or so, anyway.)

Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.


Courtesy of TheNBA

Thank you to the author of this review for taking the time to share their feedback. Great work Greg and Steven!

Lexus of Orlando - (5) Star Review on DealerRater

  • We had an excellent experience with Lexus of Orlando. From the time Greg Briguera came out and introduced himself to us Saturday morning until we left with our new Lexus late Sunday evening we never felt pressured or deceived. Our needs/wants were listened to and we feel that every effort possible was made to please us. We have had extremely bad car buying experiences in the past and we are so, so impressed with how Lexus of Orlando operates. -bcdzur85

Is the all-new 2013 GS F SPORT more exhilarating than the competition? Lexus decided to find out!

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Courtesy of Motortrend

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On this day in 1959, Lee Petty defeats Johnny Beauchamp in a photo finish at the just-opened Daytona International Speedway in Florida to win the first-ever Daytona 500. Don't miss the legendary race this Sunday fans!


Story: Courtesy of

Thank you to the authors of these wonderful reviews for sharing their feedback with us! Keep up the outstanding work team!

Lexus of Orlando - Three Positive Reviews on DealerRater

  • We came to this dealership from Melbourne, on the recommendation of another satisfied Lexus of Orlando customer. We were taken excellent care of by Mr. Jorge Laucerica, product specialist, who really knew the product and truly cared about serving his customer. The pricing game was very straightforward,cordial and professional, thanks to Mr. Dan Warren and completed with Mr. Steve Wofford. Mr. Laucerica showed us our vehicle and spent an extraordinary amount of personal time and attention to details to make sure we were familiar with the many features, and followed through with courtesy calls afterward. The few items to be taken care of were handled with great professionalism by Mr. Francisco Gonzalez (one of the best service reps I've dealt with), Mr. Howard Keyser and Ms. Rachel Ward. This team went to great lengths to make our experience of owning our 2011 RX350 truly "world class". They have earned our highest recommendation for a great product, service and delivery. -GlockRocket34
  • My experience with Doug Chan was more than outstanding. He was extremely thorough and polite. He was so professional using my name rather than "Sweetie"~~"Dear"~~etc.

    Today (2/21/12) Doug called to inquire whether or not I had further questions or needed assistance with any of the described-in-detail features.

    Since last Thursday's drive back to Port Orange, have driven the car once--six miles (round trip to Publix). As I do more driving, may have questions. At this point in time, after his detailed instructions and explanations of the features . . . doing okay.

    Doug Chan could not have provided a higher level of excellence during this transaction. Again, he was extraordinarily professional and respestful.

    In a nutshell, Doug Chan is the best!! -MAB914

  • Dominic did a super job today taking care of my car and sending me off feeling safe. I think his service was just what he would do if I was his grandmother! -Danee


Master of the Metaphysical

There’s another “Meister” on the Lexus GS development line. His name is Shuichi Ozaki, and for him, job success isn’t measured on a clipboard. It’s measured by the width of a smile.

His job is to identify, safeguard, and optimize the mix of emotions that create the uniquely human appeal of the new GS—and all Lexus vehicles.

The concept of stitching a sense of human feeling into the established Lexus tapestry of luxury and performance is a fascinating one. It starts with the recognition of a car’s ability to inspire human beings. For Ozaki, that inspiration comes from depth. Not the depth of paint, or the depth of a seat cushion, but the depth of human emotion.

“A car is an industrial product assembled from parts and technologies,” he says. “That structure gives it depth. Woven into a Lexus is an extra layer of hand craftsmanship, with each individual or team trying to craft parts—all of them masterpieces—that reflect the creator’s passion. Passion has depth. It has the ability to move people. My task is to add another layer of passion by evaluating and fine-tuning the entire vehicle—by feeling.”

This extra investment in emotion has been applied to the humblest of parts. Take the driver footrest. Rather than the usual flat surface, it’s shaped in a gradual curve. “It was clear to us that the curved form was the most natural human fit,” says Ozaki. “But finding the best curve was a very sensitive balance that even high-tech devices couldn’t measure. We had to use our own five senses.”

Also, consider the steering wheel. On the road, Ozaki’s attention to detail translates into a feeling that you’re always exactly the right distance away from the wheel, no matter how you hold it. There’s no feeling of being “hemmed in,” as Ozaki puts it.

These GS sensations are subtle—and that’s exactly how Ozaki likes it. He wants these emotional enhancements to be felt on a near-subliminal level.

“If someone says ‘wow, look what’s been achieved,’ I see that as a problem,” he explains with a smile. “When the driver grips the steering wheel made with these great materials—premium leather, wood, or bamboo—the comfortable feeling should flow up from the hands and into the mind. That should give rise to a sense of satisfaction and excitement, and a heightened sense of confidence in having made the right buying choice. All that should happen without the driver noticing.”

Courtesy of LexusDriversMagazine

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Great American Race Returns this Sunday! Will you be taking a trip in your Lexus to catch all the excitement?

Thank you to Nate for sharing these wonderful reflections on his recent visit with us! We hope to see you again soon!

Lexus of Orlando - (5) Star Review on GoogleMaps

  • My wife and I were looking for a good used SUV for over three weeks before going to Lexus of Orlando and we both wish we would have gone there sooner. The service was excellent across the board and even though we weren't buying a new car or even a Lexus at all we were treated great. Great selection. Great prices. I would recommend this dealer to anyone looking for a great car buying experience. When my family needs another car we will go back to Lexus of Orlando! -Nate

Lexus GS Challenges BMW 535i & Mercedes E350 Sport

To prove how much the new GS has improved, and show how it stacks up to the competition, Lexus invited Automobile Magazine & Motor Trend to do some independent testing of the GS 350 F Sport against the BMW 535i and Mercedes E350 Sport — here are the results at a glance (click for a larger version):

Lexus GS vs. BMW 535i vs. Mercedes E350 Sport

Here’s a zoom of just the facts:

Lexus GS vs. BMW 535i vs. Mercedes E350 Sport Results

As you can see, the GS scored first in every test — through the autocross, the 0-60 mph acceleration, 1/4 mile times, and 60-0 mph braking, the GS was able to top both the E350 Sport and 535i. Makes for some pretty impressive results.

(Of course, with this being a Lexus paid advertisement, it would be easy to write off the test as pre-determined & bias — however, all data was collected over multiple laps using VBOX technology, and Automobile & Motor Trend published videos explaining how every test was performed. Instead of a marketing conspiracy, it just goes to show how confident Lexus is in the GS and its performance credentials.)


Courtesy of LexusEnthusiast

Friday, February 17, 2012

Six of the last ten U.S. Presidents were left handed! Can you guess which ones were not? We hope you enjoy the long weekend fans! Have a happy Presidents' Day!


Lexus GS Takes on Curves of SI Swimsuit Model Tori Praver with TORI 500 Racing Game App

What do you get when you cross a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model with a hot new sports car? One cool app. Lexus and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit have fans revving their engines with the release of Lexus’ new TORI 500 racing app, available at and iTunes.

The app brings to life an actual racetrack the automaker created in the shape of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Tori Praver’s body. Players of the TORI 500 game get to see what it’s like to race the all-new 2013 Lexus GS sport sedan around a larger-than-life, 3-D image of the supermodel.

The game is part of a multi-faceted print and online campaign supporting Lexus’ role as the Official Automotive Marketing Partner of SI Swimsuit and launch week. The Lexus team began by photographing Tori—being sure to capitalize on her curves—in poses that mimicked the angles and curvature of a true racetrack. The images of Praver were then photomapped and used to design the racetrack with the digitized version providing the game environment for the iOS application.

From there, a live 1-to-1200 inch scale track was created and two of the world’s best professional drivers, racecar driver Scott Pruett and stunt driver Greg Tracy, competed to post the best time and win a victory lap with Tori. A behind-the-scenes video of both the photo shoot and the race is available at

Additional elements of Lexus’ SI Swimsuit partnership include:

  • SUPERMODELED—A camera app allowing people to place the swimsuit model into their own photos with the click of a button (also available at and iTunes)
  • Print and Online Components—Executions include a four-page spread in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue and custom tablet integrations featured on iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Xoom and Nook.
  • Launch Week Events—Lexus participation in the marquee New York launch event and SI’s two Las Vegas events, SI Swimsuit On Location and Club SI Swimsuit. Additionally, the automaker is the exclusive presenting sponsor of the first-ever, two-day Beauties & Beats Music Festival, happening at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Feb. 15 -16.


Courtesy of LexusUSANewsroom

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Will you be driving your Lexus to the Daytona 500 this month? Share your top pick for the winner of this historic racing event!


Toyota Motor Corporation Vehicles Dominate J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Vehicle Dependability Study


Eight Lexus, Toyota, and Scion models captured segment awards in the 2012 J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study, a performance equal to all other vehicle brands combined and more than twice as many as the runner-up nameplate.

The study also found:
  • Lexus is the number one nameplate improving by 23 fewer problems/100;
  • Toyota is the highest ranked non-premium nameplate and tied for third place overall, improving by 18 fewer problems/100; and
  • Scion achieves its highest ever position at fifth place, jumping up 17 positions and improving by 55 fewer problems/100.
“We are extremely pleased that not only did we win awards in eight of the 14 model segments, but that in two segments we finished one-two and made the podium in 12 segments overall”, said Jim Lentz, President and Chief Operating Officer Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. 

2012 Vehicle Dependability Study performers by segment
Sub-Compact Car
Toyota Yaris
Scion xD
Compact Car
Toyota Prius
Toyota Corolla
Compact Crossover SUV
Toyota RAV4
Compact Multi-Purpose Vehicle
Scion xB
Compact Sporty Car
Scion tC
Entry Premium Car
Lexus ES350
Midsize Car
Toyota Camry
Midsize Crossover SUV
Toyota Highlander
Midsize Van
Toyota Sienna
Midsize Premium Crossover SUV
Lexus RX350
Large Premium Car*
Lexus LS460
Large Car
Toyota Avalon
Large Pick Up
Toyota Tundra
Lexus Nameplate

Toyota Nameplate
3 (tie)


Premium Brands Industry Average
Non-Premium Brands Industry Average

Additional examples of Toyota’s commitment to the highest standards for quality, safety, reliability and retained value include:

  • Lexus was the highest ranking nameplate in the industry in the 2011 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study and earned more segment awards than any other premium brand.
  • The Lexus IS won the entry premium car segment in the 2011 J.D. Power and Associates Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.
  • Toyota and Lexus won 11 awards – more than half the 21 total awards – in’s Best Overall Values of the Year.
  • Fifteen Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles were named 2012 “Top Safety Picks” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, more than any other automaker. The 2012 models are: Toyota Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Prius, Prius v, Sienna, Tundra Crew Cab, Venza, and Yaris; Lexus CT 200h and RX, and Scion tC, xB, and xD.
  • The 2012 Camry, Camry Hybrid, Prius, and Scion tC earned five stars for Overall safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the highest rating possible.
*The Premium Car segment is not represented in the 2012 VDS due to the small sample size for the segment.

Courtesy of ToyotaUSANewsroom

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lexus Throws Sports Illustrated Swimsuit a Curve

The Official Automotive Marketing Partner for SI Swimsuit Launch Week,
Lexus and the All-New GS Take on a Real Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Supermodel’s Curves in Its TORI 500 Campaign

[[posterous-content:pid___0]]As the Official Automotive Marketing partner of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit property, Lexus has created a multi-faceted campaign called TORI 500, showcasing an actual racetrack the automaker created in the shape of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Tori Praver’s body.


2012 Lexus TORI 500 Campaign 002

2012 Lexus TORI 500 Campaign 003

TORRANCE, Calif. (Feb. 14, 2012)—Admiring the curves of a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model is one thing, but actually driving it—that’s something only Lexus and its all-new 2013 GS sport sedan could do with style. As the Official Automotive Marketing partner of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit property, Lexus created a multi-faceted campaign called TORI 500, showcasing an actual racetrack the automaker created in the shape of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Tori Praver’s body.

Campaign elements include:

  • iOS app—Available at and iTunes, SUPERMODELED is a camera app allowing people to place the swimsuit model into their own photos with the click of a button.
  • Behind-The-Scenes Video—Two of the world’s best professional drivers, race car driver Scott Pruett and stunt driver Greg Tracy, compete on the TORI 500 track (to see who wins a victory lap with Tori in the passenger seat, visit: or
  • Print and Online Components—Executions include a four-page spread in the Feb. 14 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue and custom tablet integrations featured on iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Xoom and Nook.
  • Launch Week Events—Lexus will participate in the marquee New York launch event and SI’s two Las Vegas events, SI Swimsuit On Location and Club SI Swimsuit. Additionally, the automaker is the exclusive presenting sponsor of the first-ever, two-day Beauties & Beats Music Festival, happening at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Feb. 15 -16.
“What better way to help introduce the bold new face of Lexus—the all-new GS—than with a bold new campaign featuring a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model?” said Brian Smith, Lexus vice president of marketing. “With the new GS, there’s no going back for Lexus. Instead of just looking at the pictures, consumers can share in the fun through our many campaign components, including having Tori appear in their own photos.”

Courtesy of Lexus

Monday, February 13, 2012

CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge Unveils Winning Sustainable Collections at New York Fashion Week

NEW YORK (Feb. 13, 2012) — The winning designers of the 2nd annual Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge unveiled their sustainable clothing and accessory collections on Feb. 9 at MADE at Milk Studios as part of New York Fashion Week. The show was attended by fashion editors and buyers who viewed eco-friendly designs from this year’s three competition winners: Marcia Patmos of New York, John Bartlett of New York and Johnson Hartig from Los Angeles.

Each winning designer developed a clothing or accessory line demonstrating a commitment to ecologically responsible design. A minimum 25 percent of the collection had to be produced in an environmentally friendly manner. Many of the competition proposals included components such as recycled plastic, reclaimed wood, minimal packaging, and non-chemically treated fabrics.

Winner Marcia Patmos incorporated multiple sustainable ideas into her designs, including zero-waste technology in her garment production, sourcing vegetable-tanned leather, and using animal-friendly faux fur. Designer John Bartlett’s “Future-Rustic” collection was fabricated almost entirely in cruelty free, animal-free materials such as plant-based fabrics, organic cottons, and recycled synthetic materials, while winner Johnson Hartig, co-designer of the Libertine clothing line, also showed his eco-friendly fashions.

“Seeing the winning collections come to life on the runway is truly a thrill for us at Lexus,” stated Brian Smith, vice president of marketing for Lexus. “By partnering with the CFDA to create the Eco-Fashion Challenge, Lexus is encouraging sustainable lifestyles that don’t sacrifice style or luxury. We’re proud to support these industry thought-leaders as they share our passion for accelerating change in their respective field.”

The three winners each received $25,000 to support development of their collections. The proposals were selected by a panel of judges including Simon Collins (Parsons the New School For Design), Zanna Roberts Rossi (Marie Claire), Scott Hahn (Rogan/Loomstate), Julie Gilhart (consultant), Steven Kolb (CFDA) and Lisa Smilor (CFDA). Entries were selected based on design credibility, business acumen and eco-commitment, with attention focused on eco-fabrics, materials, processes and packaging.

2012 CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge Winner 001

From Designer John Bartlett’s “Future-Rustic” collection

2012 CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge Winner 002

From the Libertine collection, co-designed by Johnson Hartig

2012 CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge Winner 003 From Designer Marcia Patmos' collection

Article and images courtesy of Lexus USA Newsroom.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Valentine’s Day is almost here! What’s your favorite way to celebrate?

a. Go out to a fancy dinner

b. Exchange gifts and cards

c. Eat candy

Lexus GS Dynamic Handling System Demonstration

As the video demonstrates, the Dynamic Handling system — which integrates rear steering, the electric power steering and variable gear ratio steering (VGRS) — is a substantial upgrade over the GS base model handling.

I had a chance to test out a DHS-equipped GS F Sport on the track last November, and the difference was significant — turn-in response was noticeably sharper, and the rear of the vehicle had considerably more grip. In fact, the DHS made me feel so confident, that my run in the GS F Sport was the only time I hit a cone all day.

Courtesy of LexusEnthusiast

Akio Toyoda: Toyota's comeback kid. A Fortune Magazine Profile on Toyota's President.

[[posterous-content:pid___0]]By Alex Taylor III, senior editor-at-large

Toyota president Akio Toyoda is also a certified test driver.

Toyota president Akio Toyoda is also a certified test driver.

FORTUNE -- When the final tally was made for 2011, Toyota Motor (TM), formerly the world's largest automaker, slipped to third place in production behind General Motors (GM) and Volkswagen. It's not surprising: Toyota has endured a string of calamities over the past three years -- natural and man-made -- that would make even the company's famous paranoia seem like sunny optimism. The latest is endaka, the strong yen that causes everything that Toyota manufactures in Japan to be more expensive and undermines its profitability. A November issue of Automotive News predicted "more misery" for Toyota as "sales slip, floods delay, shoppers stray."

At the head of the company all this time has been a young president who was effectively born into the job and has little experience in crisis management: Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the company's founder. For a decade, while the automaker was being run by professional managers, Akio rose up the corporate ladder without making much of a mark. (For the sake of clarity, we'll use his first name, pronounced a-KEY-o, in this story.) Thrust into the presidency in 2009, he immediately had to cope with a global recession, massive recalls, and a deadly tsunami. Auto production plummeted, and at the same time Toyota lost its most important competitive advantage: its reputation for exceptional quality. Americans saw Akio apologizing before Congress and later tearing up in a YouTube video. U.S. market share tumbled. After reaching 18.3% at the end in 2009, it fell all the way to 12.9% for 2011. Emboldened by the recall crisis, competitors spread word that Toyota, once considered the unstoppable force of the automotive world, had been reduced to the status of also-ran.

But I had been hearing different things -- that Toyota had coped remarkably well with the tsunami, and that the recall crisis had served as a wake-up call for a company grown complacent. With a big boost from its new president, who took an intensely personal interest in its products, it was connecting with customers again.

The University of Michigan's Jeffrey Liker, a leading Toyota scholar, told me, "Akio has reenergized the company. He's promised to be the closest president ever to the gemba [where the real work is happening]."

Toyota's big product offensive

The Toyoda scion was traveling to the U.S. more frequently to fire up dealers and had taken charge personally of the sagging Lexus brand. Independent studies were beginning to show that Toyota cars were regaining their reputation for quality and value. With 19 new or redesigned models coming in calendar 2012 -- an exceptionally large number -- including a big expansion of the Prius hybrid line, the Toyota steamroller seemed ready to regain its old momentum.

One of Toyota's guiding principles in times of crisis is genchi genbutsu, or "go and see." So to find out for myself what the changes meant for a company I had been covering for more than 20 years, I interviewed Toyota executives in California and New York, and then flew to Japan.

Of all the woes Toyota has suffered, none has stung like the recall crisis of 2009-10. Ignited by reports of horrific accidents, some fatal, caused by cars that ran out of control and couldn't be braked to a stop, it eventually involved the recall more than 8 million Toyotas and Lexuses -- equivalent to a year's production. Independent investigations turned up no mechanical or electronic defects -- only some misplaced floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals to go along with driver error -- but exposed major flaws in the corporate culture. Toyota, it turned out, was still being managed the way it had been in the 1950s: Every decision was tightly controlled in Japan; the U.S. was treated like a vassal state. When American managers found defects in vehicles, they had to follow a tortuous bureaucratic process to register their complaints in Japan, where they were often met with skepticism and defensiveness. As it had long feared, Toyota had succumbed to "big-company disease."

Consumer confidence in its cars plummeted, and Toyota's higher-ups were shaken. "We learned we are not so ahead of competitors as we might have thought," Yoshimi Inaba, who heads sales and administration in the U.S., told me. "We were a little complacent." Toyota began to develop quicker reflexes. When a defect was identified in a Lexus SUV, Toyota organized a recall in just eight days. But it balked at delegating more executive authority to America. Rather than designate one person to head all of its North American operations, it maintained its traditional silo structure. Its giant sales operation in Southern California, and its equally large manufacturing complex headquartered in Kentucky, continued reporting to different executives in Japan.

2012 Lexus LFA: An ultra-exotic two-seater, the $375,000 sports car embodies Toyota's new, more aggressive attitude.

2012 Lexus LFA: An ultra-exotic two-seater, the $375,000 sports car embodies Toyota's new, more aggressive attitude.

Just as it was trying to put the recall crisis behind it, the new management was tested again in March, when an earthquake and massive tidal wave disrupted production. The tsunami damaged plants in the north of Japan, disrupting the supply of over 500 parts, and Toyota couldn't find replacements. Its first-tier, just-in-time suppliers near Toyota City were not directly affected, but up north were second- and third-tier suppliers that Toyota did not know much about.

Akio assembled general managers of departments such as body engineering and powertrain in Japan, and took the unusual step of instructing them to restore production and not waste time reporting upward. They sent two-man teams of engineers to visit each supplier plant and to identify and locate backup parts until the suppliers were running again. By April, unavailable parts were down to 150, and by May, according to Liker's count, all but 30 of the 500 parts were available. Toyota solved the problems in half the time expected, but Liker figures the company still lost 800,000 production units -- 10% of its annual output. Plans to make up most of the shortfall through overtime work were pushed back by October floods in Thailand that affected about 100 suppliers. As a result, inventories in North America won't be completely replenished until March.

As I fidgeted through a 14-hour flight to Japan in a well-worn Boeing 777, I wondered what I would find. I figured Toyota had gotten some bad breaks, but I wondered about how committed this ponderous and bureaucratic company was to change.

After overnighting in Tokyo, I moved on to Nagoya, Japan's third-largest city -- one hour and 40 minutes away by Shinkansen bullet train -- where Toyota occupies several office buildings. I met with executive vice president Yukitoshi Funo, one of Akio's key advisers. Funo, who holds an MBA from Columbia and formerly oversaw U.S. sales, told me there had been an upheaval at Toyota. "[Akio] has dramatically changed the way the company is managed," he said through an interpreter. "There are two major pillars to how he manages: First, be fast; and second, be flexible. Usually Japanese companies are based on a 'bottom up' management style, which slows down the pace of decision-making. In looking at other companies, we realized the need for a certain level of 'top down' to move quickly."

Akio shrank the board of directors by half and took out layers of management. Funo revealed a more significant development: Akio has begun meeting informally with his five top advisers every Tuesday morning to review the company's operations. They work so closely together that Funo called it "pit work" management. No agendas or written reports are allowed, and decisions are made on the spot. "Basically, the six people have a very strong personal bond. So it's not a very emotional or heated debate as we have a very good understanding among each other." They can move quickly. After Akio visited Tesla Motors (TSLA) in California in 2010, the Tuesday morning meeting signed off on a $50 million investment in the electric-car maker. Subsequently Toyota agreed to buy $60 million worth of Tesla batteries to power its all-electric RAV 4 crossover.

Funo said Akio has made another fundamental change in the way Toyota is managed. Traditionally, Toyota has rotated its top executives, so a sales specialist could be assigned to purchasing, or a product engineer to manufacturing. Now they stay within their specialties so that they can leverage their experience. "It's very American," said Funo. "I'm not really sure how what he learned at Babson [the Boston college where Akio studied business] has affected how he is running the company. But he is not typical Japanese management." That turned out to be an understatement.

The next day I made the 40-minute car ride to Toyota City to meet with Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota's top engineer and another participant in the Tuesday morning meetings. In 1993, Uchiyamada accepted the challenge of Toyota's elders to develop a car with 50%-better fuel economy; today he's known as the father of the Prius. More than 3 million of the hybrids have been sold since 1997, and it has been expanded into a sub-brand with additional models.

Akio is pushing Toyota to make "always better cars," and Uchiyamada is the point man. For years enthusiasts have complained that Toyota treats cars like transportation appliances and allows companies such as Hyundai to seize design leadership. Uchiyamada says the critics were right. He told me: "Basically, Toyota's growth had been underpinned by QDR [quality, dependability, reliability] that was very high compared with competitors'. However, since the Lehman shock [in 2008], large-scale sales of Toyota vehicles have decelerated. Compared with past practices, we need to make products that are even more attractive. We have stepped up our efforts emphasizing design, high quality of the interiors."

Appearances count, but Uchiyamada has no intention of allowing Toyota to lose its green credentials either. This spring Toyota will launch the plug-in Prius, a $32,000 car that he believes is the best short-term solution to freeing the automobile from gasoline. Unlike conventional hybrids, the plug-in has a large battery that can power the car for up to 15 miles on electricity alone and be recharged at home. "I think the plug-in is the most practical technology of the future that will see great potential for mass dissemination. It can be recognized as an electric vehicle without having to worry about running out of battery. If the battery runs out, the car can be driven as a normal hybrid, so the amount of battery mounted in the vehicle can be minimized." I asked him how he compared the Prius to the much-publicized Chevrolet Volt, and he gave me a surprisingly candid answer. "The Volt has a longer driving range in EV mode, but for that they have greater battery volume. After the battery runs out, the Volt's power performance deteriorates when driven by a gasoline engine. So I believe the cost of the Volt will be higher than the Prius plug-in."

Akio Toyoda's Toyota timeline

When my interview with Uchimayada concluded, it was time for the meeting with Akio. It was to be held in a characteristically Japanese setting: a meeting hall in a private park near Toyota headquarters, where the company had reassembled the former residence of Kiichiro Toyoda, Akio's grandfather. Akio bounded into the interview room with the energy of a TV game show host, clearly more confident and relaxed than the man I had met 2½ years earlier, just after he had become president. Seated at a table across from me, he took questions in English and watched me intently while the interpreter translated his answers from Japanese.

Akio Toyoda at the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival at the Fuji Speedway in Japan

Akio Toyoda at the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival at the Fuji Speedway in Japan

Unlike his gray-suited, office-bound predecessors, Akio, 55, is more comfortable in a fire-resistant Nomex suit and crash helmet than he is in a coat and tie. A certified test driver, he evaluates as many as 200 Toyotas and competitive vehicles annually, and appears happiest when he's behind the wheel...

After speaking at a U.S. dealer meeting in Las Vegas last April, Akio unwound by driving an 850-horsepower NASCAR stock car at a nearby speedway. His passion, he says, has made it easy for him to settle into his job as president. He explained, "I was very glad to hear from my father [honorary chairman Soichiro Toyoda], 'I leave everything in your hands.' Of course, over the past two years the environment has seen dramatic change, but one thing I maintained, which I think protected me from these hardships, is that I love cars, and I kept saying to people constantly that we need to come up with always better cars. Whenever a new car is launched I have to drive it myself. So by trying out as many vehicles as possible, I think I can compare Toyota cars with comparable vehicles, and by driving directly I can understand the strategic direction of the company."

Much of his wheel time recently has been in a Lexus. Although it is intended to be a global brand, the Lexus has never caught on in Europe, and its aging designs were turning off U.S. buyers. Akio bypassed several layers of management to take direct responsibility for the brand and invested hours fine-tuning the ride and handling of the latest model, the 2013 GS. To give Lexus a sportier image, he also championed the development of the $375,000 LFA, a carbon fiber supercar, and personally tested the car on Germany's famed Nürburgring, where speeds top 180 mph.

"It has a limited production run of 500 units," he said of the LFA. "It seems to be a very secret sauce."

Does it make sense for the head of a company as large as Toyota to spend so much time evaluating its products and micromanaging small details? Well, it worked for Steve Jobs, and Akio believes it is an essential component of his leadership. "As you know, our cars are evaluated as good, not emotional," he said. "I think it's possible for Toyota to improve upon the emotion of cars. There are capable engineers who are about to do that. So what I think is needed is to really have a champion to encourage people to take action on that, to serve as a leader to address any problems after a challenge."

The smooth functioning of his Tuesday morning group makes it possible for Akio to spend more time with product development. "Actually I was very uncomfortable since I was a little boy with so-called yes-men who were just obedient to what I said. These five executive vice presidents who support me are experts in their respective areas, with experience of more than 40 years. I am the ultimate person in charge of this company, [but] I found it is very important to ask them for their views."

One topic on which advice is plentiful is how to deal with the strong yen, which has appreciated 35% since 2007 and is at a 65-year high. At 77 to the dollar, the currency cost Toyota $1 billion in profit during the quarter ended Sept. 30; Toyota needs an exchange rate of 80 yen to the dollar to remain profitable. It is working with its suppliers to reduce costs, but the currency imbalance threatens the future shape of the company. Already two-thirds of Toyota production comes from overseas, compared with half as recently as 2006. Akio has pledged to maintain a manufacturing base in Japan with a capacity of 3 million cars to protect parts makers and its skilled-labor supply, but Funo said that number "is not carved in stone" and that Toyota may shift more production to the U.S.

I had more questions to ask Akio, but my hourlong time slot had expired. He stayed around to shake hands and pose for pictures. Then he ducked into a black LFA and drove off, the sound of the exhaust growling in his wake.

Most of my concerns about Toyota had been addressed. No company is better at the nuts and bolts of the car business, but years of success had hardened some ill-advised practices that are now being discarded. Akio had personally taken on its most persistent shortcoming -- an inability to connect emotionally with customers through its products -- and he was making progress. Toyota does not make a practice of showing future models to outsiders, but I learned from dealers that the 2013 Avalon sedan, due next spring, will be something special in style and appeal. If subsequent models achieve a similar high standard, then Akio's mantra of "always better cars" may join the Toyota lexicon alongside genchi genbutsu.

This article is from the February 27, 2012 issue of Fortune.