The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor & Welfare recently recognized 150 '"Outstanding Skilled Workers." Included was a maker of wooden baseball bats (who's supplied 1500 famous players, including Ichiro), a man who specialized in polishing large optical lenses (such as the one in Hawaii's astronomical observatory) and, for the first time, a test driver.
Hiroyoshi Kato joined Nissan in 1976 and has been engaged in chassis testing ever since. He was involved in developing the Skyline GT-R series, the and more recently the 350Z Roadster. He is now responsible for FR models-with about 20 engineers under him-and my favorable driving impressions of the G35 and 350Z are clear indications his team works hard.
The computer is now playing a critical role in car development. But when it comes to dynamic qualities, intensive real-world tests are essential. Car lovers are not simply looking for practical and reliable machines. They want fun-to-drive vehicles with linear steering, responsive handling, progressive brakes, superb controllability at the limit, a solid feel and many other dynamic qualities. Only careful tuning by sensitive and skilled test drivers can accomplish these goals.
It is yet to be seen which Japanese brand will be the leader in this area, but key attributes are an appreciation of such qualities by the management, effective integration of expertise into the development process, the passing of such know-how to the next generation and the fostering of youth. After all, human skills are critical to establish clearer brand awareness in a computer-led industry.