Master Of The Metaphysical

2/20/2012—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.”