QOTD: What's Your Favorite Automotive Success Story?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Earlier this week, our Matthew Guy inquired about your favorite automotive “ oops” moment — a time when it all went wrong for a manufacturer’s model or idea. Today, we’re going to flip it around, switch it up, and reverse it.

There are times when everything comes together at the right place and time in the automotive world. Whether by complete accident or cunning planning (often years in advance), a manufacturer hits an idea out of the park. It might be a single model in a new style, a superb entry into a crowded marketplace, or something that fills a void hitherto left empty in the lives of hungry consumers. No case of schadenfreude here — just success, dollars, happy children, puppies, and smiling regulators and accountants.

So which tale of automotive success is your favorite? While the GTI shown above is interesting and is credited with creating the new hot hatch segment, it’s not my pick today.

This is. When Toyota’s luxury brand came to market for model year 1990, the brand had only two models: the Lexus ES250, which was a lightly modified Camry, and the Lexus LS400, an all new luxury sedan. The success of the brand was no happy accident; Toyota had begun LS development all the way back in 1983. Chairman Eiji Toyoda challenged his company to build the world’s best car, and the F1 project (“Flagship One”) began. F1 development was spurred on by the debut of Acura in 1986, and the announcement of Infiniti in 1987.

Toyota implemented exhaustive research and development, spent millions of dollars, and even sent designers to Laguna Beach, California, to study the taste and lifestyle of upper class Americans. And it paid off in spades.

In the last four months of 1989, when the Lexus brand first went on sale, it racked up 16,392 sales, exceeding the 16,000 goal set by Lexus internally. The first full year of sales in 1990 found 63,594 Lexus vehicles in American driveways, and Lexus held the sales trophy for premium imported cars in the United States by the end of 1991. The same year, J.D. Power ranked the marque highest for initial vehicle quality, customer satisfaction, and sales satisfaction.

Lexus later released the RX300, effectively beginning the crossover SUV segment we all love and cherish talk about today. But I’ll stop myself now, so you can share your favorite success story.

[Detail from Wikipedia]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • 05lgt 05lgt on Mar 02, 2017

    First year of NSX and S2000. Both lost some shine when the competition responded and HMC did not, but in the first year there was nothing like either. A80 Supra Turbo. At the time I thought it was overpriced... Oops.

  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Mar 08, 2017

    How about Harlow Curtice and the 1934 Buicks? Without the Series 40, would there be a Church of the 3800?

  • ToolGuy I wouldn't buy any old Chinese brand of vehicle, but the right EV at the right price, maybe possibly yes. If you told me this would alarm Ford and torque off FreedMike, all the better. 😉P.S. I would *definitely* consider an EV made in Taiwan. Take that, paramount leader!P.P.S. China batteries/components to convert one of my ICE vehicles to EV? Yes.
  • Wolfwagen I expect Renault to be less popular than Fiat
  • ToolGuy Helium-3, baby!
  • Roman Our 1999 Pontiac Sunfire Gt is still running without any issues. 25 years and counting.
  • 28-Cars-Later I thought today's young people weren't even getting licenses to drive, so which is it?