Yukihiko Yaguchi, the maverick engineer behind our high-performance ‘F’ division, retired from active work on 1 April 2020 after more than 40 years with Lexus and parent company Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC). Such is the legacy and influence of Yaguchi-san’s work that Lexus has permitted him to retain his last position as an honorary title; hence being called Emeritus Chief Engineer.
Yaguchi-san was born in 1955 and studied mechanical engineering at the highly respected Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Technology. In 1977, at the age of 22, he joined TMC and was initially assigned to design electrical components for the sixth-generation Toyota Crown luxury saloon, no doubt including that model’s innovative microprocessor-based cruise control system.
The following year he was moved into the NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) department, where for the next 17 years he specialised in honing the refinement and ambience of luxury and sporting models. These included the first four generations of Toyota Supra as well as the defining first- and second-generations of the Lexus LS luxury saloon.
Yaguchi’s workmanship and attention to detail had come to the attention of the directors. Which meant that in 1995 he was invited to assume the responsibility of auditing the performance and overall quality of many new TMC products.
One of the most influential models overseen by Yaguchi during this period was the domestic market sixth-generation Toyota Chaser – a mid-size saloon with an unusual balance of luxury and sportiness. In fact, so well-judged was this balance of qualities that many enthusiasts credit the Chaser for inspiring what became Yaguchi-san’s career defining move – the organising of a skunk works team to engineer a high-performance version of the second-generation Lexus IS.
Lexus itself had unknowingly laid the groundwork for this move by promoting Yaguchi into the brand’s planning division, a position that enabled him to spearhead the development and authoritatively persuade the department to give a green light to the project. Approval was granted in 2003 and the new, evocatively badged Lexus IS F finally arrived in 2007.
Yaguchi is a performance enthusiast who appreciates driving fine, responsive vehicles. He always wanted to build cars that he would personally love to drive and own; and with the IS F, he did exactly that by boldly rejecting traditional corporation procedure. He also boosted the project with his proactive approach and experience in vehicle auditing.
During the Noughties, Yaguchi was assigned to be in charge of the development and engineering of RC F, and later work a similar magic with the GS F. He was also deeply involved in the development of the radical IS F CCS-R, the RC F GT Concept track day car, and the full-blooded RC F GT3 – the first-ever Lexus factory race car.
The short video (below) from 2018 represents one of the last filmed interviews conducted by Yaguchi-san. In it he reveals the three key elements that he has always endeavoured to engineer into his cars, as well as the additional safety advantages of high-performance Lexus F engineering.
We thank Yukihiko Yaguchi for the iconic vehicles that he has helped bring to market and recognise that his skill, enthusiasm and tenacity will be greatly missed. But it is also intriguing to consider whether he was involved in any swansong projects in the two years since the above video was produced. Maybe time will tell…