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      04-22-2013, 04:59 PM   #1145
GoingTooFast
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Drives: fat cars are still boats
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: compensating a fat car with horsepower is like giving an alcoholic cocaine to sober him up.

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Quote:
“Yet when I meet up with rival sports car chief engineers (and we do at various times around the world), we all talk about what we call the Devil’s Cycle of ever-increasing power, speed, weight and price.
If you didn't read it yet, it's worth reading Toyobaru chief engineer Tetsuya Tada about the whole idea behind the Toyobaru conception and about future projects, namely the relationship with BMW:



Quote:
“You need to remember that this car was the result of an executive board meeting at Toyota in 2007 with the sole agenda that people around the world are losing interest in cars and what Toyota was going to do about it. One suggestion on how to address this was to go back to basics with a sports car that would rekindle interest. In the past, sports cars had been repeatedly rejected as having a poor return on investment, but at this meeting it was decided that if the technology division could make something that could restart interest, then the marketing division would support it.

“I had been working in the minivan department engineering new product, but a month after the meeting I was summoned. ‘Forget about minivans,’ they said, ‘you are now working on the sports-car project.’

“I started to research the idea and the first thing that hit home to me was that all sports cars are launched to the same formula. The are very fast, with fast lap times and that was the index that was used to measure how effective the car was. Yet when I spoke to car guys around the world they universally said they didn’t want that. These guys were still repairing their old Silvas and AE86 models.

“Yet the first question from the board when I reported back was, ‘how fast is it?’ They couldn’t imagine a car which drives like a dream but isn’t that quick. I was thinking that maybe the car guys were right when they said they thought Toyota would be the hardest company to get such a high-fun, low-top-speed car past.

“Yet when I meet up with rival sports car chief engineers (and we do at various times around the world), we all talk about what we call the Devil’s Cycle of ever-increasing power, speed, weight and price. So I started to work on the packaging requirements for this different sort of sports car. It would need to be front engined and rear wheel drive, but it would also have to be ‘cool’ and by that I mean low at the front. Yet all our Toyota engines are quite high and that would mean the car would have to have a high front end to pass pedestrian safety legislation, which wouldn’t be good for the aerodynamics, the looks or the ‘cool’.

“It quickly became clear that we would need a flat-four cylinder or a rotary engine for such a ‘cool’ sports car. And by coincidence, Toyota and Subaru had just announced a collaboration deal. And although it wasn’t in the area of building a joint sports car, they did have a flat-four engine. In fact the deal was that Toyota was buying some Subaru shares back off General Motors and there was no financial benefit until we came along and suggested we talk to Subaru about their engine.

“When we first approached Subaru they couldn’t believe that our plans for a sports car wasn’t a four-wheel drive or a turbocharged engine. ‘Who is going to buy this car?’ they said. We talked for a while, but the discussions stalled and we didn’t do anything for six months. Then we built a prototype based on a Subaru Legacy and that’s when the mindset seemed to change at Subaru. We lent them that car and the Subaru management came back to us and said, ‘this is such an interesting car. Every time we lend it out, it comes back with the rear tyres worn out!’.

“So the project was on again and the initial approval was for us to take the Subaru engine as it was. This was for financial reasons. We persevered but one year into the project and both sides could see that while we had a sports car, it still needed a good power level of 100bhp per litre and also an environmental target of a maximum of 160g/km of carbon dioxide emissions. With the Subaru flat four as it was we could get one and not the other. If we wanted 160g/km we only got 60bhp per litre, which meant 120bhp in total; not enough.

“We had hit another wall. I went to our engine simulator and looked at the set up we had to give us the figures we needed. The chief engineer from the Lexus LFA came to help us and he proved that with Toyota’s D4S [direct and port] fuel-injection system and a certain bore and stroke we could hit our power and emissions targets.

“Oh dear. We then had a lot of problems with the Toyota board. We needed the company’s most advanced direct fuel-injection system, but when I said I was going to disclose the inner workings of the most modern Toyota advance to an outside company, they said, ‘Are you crazy?’.

“Our saviour turned out to be the head of engine development Shinzo Kobuki*who had also developed the engine in the AE86. He took on the task of persuading the board to allow us to use D4S. You might have thought that owning Subaru shares meant that such a move would be in both our interests, but no.

“What’s more Subaru’s reaction was a bolt from the blue. ‘Not over my dead body,’ was their reaction. The rationale was their previous experience with direct injection and the many problems that had occurred. The chief executive officer of engine development had previously been the head of the introduction of direct injection at Subaru and was very anti the idea. Plus of course, the Subaru way is of corporate conservatism.

“So Mr Kobuki came out for us again. ‘I will convince them,’ he said. In the end he undertook to take on the warranty for all problems. What really won everyone over was when we built our first engine. You can imagine that the relationship between Toyota and Subaru at the time was very low. I admit, I was still thinking, ‘they’re never going to agree to this’. Even Mr Kobuki didn’t think that Subaru would understand the ramification of the D4S, the benefits it gave and its importance to Toyota. I was pretty low.

“Yet out of these feelings and the wall of reluctance, we made a prototype [in 2008], which had 190bhp. It started to dissolve the antipathy and marked the start of a mutual respect between Subaru and Toyota engineers. We had heard that Subaru engineering had been concerned about the potential for Toyota one-upmanship in this relationship. But after the prototype was built we all got together and felt that we were all on the same team.”

Quote:
“As far as the convertible is concerned, there’s still some way to go before production. We’ve got many engineering challenges and not all of them are solved yet.
“But from the outset, when we were engineering the coupé, we had the cabrio in mind. So we knew all the hard points that would be involved when it became an open top and bore those in mind. So the indexed windows are one highlight, also the way we laid out the rear suspension to allow for the folding roof.

“Our exterior designer has already had in his mind having a cabrio version, so in his drawings he did a cut-off roof. The designer, Mr Brouchan, he likes convertibles. At the beginning of the project I wasn’t too concerned about a convertible version, but I would sneak up on him and he was always drawing a drophead. I would say, ‘you’re drawing a convertible,*again!’.

“Mass producing a sports car for a company like Toyota carries a big business risk and we’ve tried to mitigate that risk with our collaboration with Subaru. We say, ‘mitigate’ in one [easy] word, but we had to make some really tough decisions for us to realise this. Also, along the way, we investigated the possibility of a sedan [saloon] and a shooting brake.

“Actually we tried to do this secretly but the executives found us out. They said: “what are you doing? Will you please focus on the coupé.” So that was our focal point and it was only with the success of the coupé that we were able to bring out the prototype of the convertible. It would never have existed without the support from you and the customers.

“It’s just my personal dream that the GT86 could become a family like what BMW has done with the Mini family. I hope that happens. I also have five dogs myself and I would like to have them in the car, so a sports shooting break would be just right.

“Actually I am flying to Munich after the [Geneva] motor show for discussion about the future cooperation with BMW. We are already discussing what we can do and the potential results of this collaboration. One of the things we learned from our cooperation with Subaru is how to bring these two different cultures together. Something like the GT86 sports car was particularly difficult in terms of collaboration, but what we can take from it is the experience of figuring out how we can get the obstacles to us working together for us. I am hoping that we can leverage this experience when we work with BMW. So just like we bought the GT86 out of our work with Subaru, I am hoping for a synergy effect with BMW that will result in a product that none of us could have imagined; something more than anyone expects. I would like that to be something like a sports car… I would even go so far as to say that for the collaboration to work we have to bring a product which exceeds all these expectations.


“It is absolutely essential to have great connections with each other that go beyond just pure business logic. I was able to have remarkable encounters with people at Subaru and we had supporters behind us on the Toyota and the Subaru side. I’d even say these connections have to happen if the BMW collaboration is to work. If we carried along the lines of same-old, same-old, then nothing good will come out of this.

“At the moment we are struggling, because we are having this really business-like dealing with BMW and we haven’t really been able to get through that barrier so far. Perhaps I need to meet them socially and drink beer and eat sausage together. In fact the one time I felt we went beyond the business-like barrier was when we all went to Oktoberfest and drank beer. That was the one time, when we were drinking together that I thought, these are unexpectedly good people…


“I have a friend in Mazda, he is chief engineer on the MX-5 and of course they have just announced a cooperation with Alfa Romeo. Because we talk a lot, I know he is going through very tough times because he is trying to get this project rolling. In collaborative projects like we have experienced, there is always going to be a long, long time where you are in doubt about it all, asking yourself, ‘why are we doing this? Why are we in this collaboration? Wouldn’t it be quicker just to do it ourselves?’ – there’s always this period. Luckily for the collaboration on the GT86, we got to a turning point in the collaboration, where we became one team (Team 86) and that goes beyond being Japanese and German, but having a common goal and all working towards the same thing. I’m hoping that the collaboration between Toyota and BMW will at some stage reach the same thing.

“We are investigating several aspects [to this deal] and I assume that it will be much tougher than what we’ve had with the Subaru deal. One thing that makes it difficult is that we don’t have a cross shareholding relationship.”