Nissan GT-R (R32), Mercedes Benz 500E. These monster cars were born in around the same time (around 1990). When I was a teenager, my friend’s father owned them both, and they sometimes gave me a drive. I will never forget the impression I had when riding in the cars for the first time. The start-dash of GT-R was just violent, though it was not normal but souped-up to more than 700 HP. I felt like being in a vault when riding in 500E. As it may sound like nostalgia from an old-timer, I don’t think such legendary cars will never be made again. Indeed, car makers could spend more budget on product development, and legal restrictions (crash safety, environmental conservation, etc) were much less in 90’s. I know social conditions have changed a lot since then, but the root of the reason why I’m dissatisfied lies somewhere else.
Lexus is now popular anywhere in the world. Mazda, saved from bankruptcy by Ford in 90’s, has increased sales especially in the overseas markets. In order to leave an impression on people’s memories, recently their cars have common design motifs, such as the spindle-shaped front grill incorporated in all the Lexus cars. The grill shape stems from the history that Toyota started their business as a loom company, by the way. They are often cited as successful examples of branding. Consequently, all the models look almost the same, and streetscapes become featureless. As the accuracy of market surveys and analysis is improved, we are more likely to be led to safe and moderate (sometimes boring) options.
GT-R was developed to win the Japan’s top motor racing series at that time, and 500E was a result of just pursuing the slogan of Mercedes Benz: “The best or nothing.” If thinking about it rationally from the marketing perspective, they might not have put such cars on the market. I feel like there was more room for pathos or passion in product development. Once, I bothered the immediate past chairman with a large number of questions about the marketing strategy of a new product. He answered “There’s no such thing this time. I gave a go because it looked technically challenging. We (the management) have to be considerate to the emotional aspect of the production team as well in order to keep up their morale.” Some of our products may end up in commercial failure, but I believe we can keep on developing new passionate products.
He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.