Want to know more about the design and development of the new Lexus CT 200h? We spoke to Chika Kako, the first female Chief Engineer for Lexus International, and the woman overseeing the CT’s development, at the model’s press launch in Rome, Italy.
Chika tells us how Lexus is making cars that are more engaging to drive, provides her thoughts on some of the engineering challenges facing the automotive industry today, and reflects on development of the legendary LFA supercar.
Name / Job Title: Chika Kako, Chief Engineer, Lexus International
Toyota/Lexus CV: Joined Toyota Motor Corporation in 1989, transferred to Toyota Motors Europe in 2001. Joined Lexus International in 2005. Assigned to the position of Chief Engineer for CT in June 2013.
Also worked on: RX, IS
Lexus Blog: What were the engineering priorities for the 2014 CT?
Chika Kako: To have the best balance between ride comfort and dynamic performance, and also, especially for Europe – to reduce CO2 emissions. I think those are the most important points.
LB: How did consumer feedback shape the improvements that have been made to the CT?
CK: Some customers complained about the CVT noise, and to solve that, we worked on defining the best balance between engine noise and vehicle speed for a more linear feeling (when moving through the rev range). There has been a big improvement in mpg performance also.
LB: How have you ensured the 2014 is even better to drive than before?
CK: By eliminating CVT noise, and working to strike a balance between making the car fun to drive and comfortable.
LB: Technically, what’s the biggest improvement over the previous model?
CK: I think again, the car is more fun to drive, and there is a good balance between sporty handling and ride comfort.
LB: What steps have been taken to move interior quality and on-board technology forward?
CK: One improvement is visual refinement, for example the style of the gearshift leather and additional interior ornamentation. Improving quietness has helped interior feeling, along with the sporty (exhaust) note.
LB: What do you regard to be the most successful upgrade?
CK: The sporty-looking exterior.
LB: What part of the car do you like the most?
CK: The sporty handling – I really like that.
LB: What aspect of the CT’s development did you find especially challenging?
CK: Coming back to the first question, having a balance between both (ride comfort and dynamic performance) is really challenging, and we spent time – quite a lot of time – working on this. There are 94 changes on the new CT – for a minor change that’s a huge effort.
LB: What have you learnt during the development process for CT?
CK: We have developed a very strong, iconic exterior for our cars, that started with GS, and have enhanced our focus on making cars that are fun to drive.
LB: What are the key engineering challenges facing the automotive industry today?
CK: Safety demands are making vehicles heavier, so keeping dynamic performance and (simultaneously) improving safety is a challenge I think. Recently, requirements for crash tests have gotten stricter, and we have to come up with a solution to that. We cannot ignore CO2 emissions and the environment too.
LB: How is the CT representative of Lexus’ developmental direction?
CK: The car is more fun to drive, and stylish. My biggest passion is to make a cool interior with innovative solutions and a warm atmosphere.
LB: What Lexus model past or present are you most fond of?
LB: Would you say that there’s a little bit of LFA in the CT?
LB: You’ve been working for Lexus since 2005, what are some of your highlights?
CK: Developing the LFA; that helped shape the Lexus engineering vision of making cars more fun to drive.
For more information about the CT 200h, visit the designated section of the Lexus UK website. If you would like us to arrange a test drive for you, leave a comment below, and we’ll be in touch shortly.