Photo of Stephen Aylward

Stephen Aylward, General Manager-Lexus of Warwick

SPEAKERS Stephen Fasano/Synergy Media, Stephen Aylward/Lexus of Warwick

Synergy Media: We’re here with Steve Aylward, who’s the general manager of Lexus of Warwick. Steve, thanks for joining us.

Stephen Aylward: My pleasure.

Synergy Media: I wanted to talk to you about the new JD Power Vehicle Dependability Survey, Lexus has been a leader for so many years. And then it looked like it was just one year that they dropped down a second or third, whatever it was, and now they’re back on back and on top. can tell us anything about that? Have you noticed anything different in their processes?

Stephen Aylward: Yes, it’s hard to be humble with this brand. Because I think the last 20 out of 21 years in this century, we’ve been on top of JD Power in the vehicle dependability survey.  I’m one of the very few dealers that posts the JD Powers survey results on the wall for our guests to see, because they shop other brands and I want them to see what the quality of Lexus is. I’ve been fortunate enough to go to the plant in Cambridge, Canada and also in Tokyo to see how they do things. And I’ll tell you what, their facilities, they win awards all the time. But there’s this culture that starts at the very, very beginning, the culture is quality, quality, quality. They have this pull string in the assembly line that if an employee sees something off, they pull this string and the whole assembly line shuts down. At other manufacturers, the rumor is you might have a meeting with your boss if you pull that string. At Lexus or Toyota-the parent company, the employee gets an award for pointing something out. So then they’ll research and then they’ll find out what went wrong and backtrack before the customer ever gets those cars. So the culture is “let’s fix this product before it ever gets to market”.

Lexus timestamps every job in the factory, and they get an idea of when people have gone too long and they mentally are no longer engaged, and that’s when they’re more apt to make a mistake, or they’re doing a job that has the potential to cause an injury from repetition, but they timestamp these. So when you go to the factory, you might be putting in glove boxes for seven minutes. And then there’ll be some sort of a whistle, and now you’re actually putting on wheels, tires, 14 minutes.  That’s pretty neat.  So they keep everybody healthy and keeps the passion for the product and mitigates mistakes.

I’ve worked for other manufacturers where the lack of quality in some of the cars, they have check engine lights on with five miles on the cars, they break down in the showroom, they have oil leaking on the on the pavement on a brand-new car!  And you just don’t find that with this brand.

Synergy Media: So I’m guessing that makes your life, at least from the customers picking up the phone and calling you with problems, makes your life probably pretty easy?

Stephen Aylward: Yeah, I worked for another High Line manufacturer years ago, and when I moved over to Lexus about a decade ago, my wife said, “Hey, what’s the difference between a Lexus customer and that other brand, Highline customer?”  And I said “If you’ve ever gone to a department store and seen a child having a temper tantrum lying on the ground kicking and screaming, and demanding all these things, well those children grow up and buy that other brand”.  So as our guests here at this brand, they are just easygoing people, and they just want a quality vehicle, they want that luxury, they want to feel part of the family. And Lexus has some of the highest retention of the entire industry, because once people come in and feel like they’re part of the family, they just automatically want to come back again.

Synergy Media: So I’m guessing your service department is probably generally routine maintenance and not too much with actual problems?

Stephen Aylward: Yes, routine maintenance is a large part of our service department’s daily business. We do replace components as well, but surely a whole lot less than our competitors. Even some of the complaints from our guests are due to them needing a refresher on how to use the product and not a product concern at all.

Synergy Media: So let’s talk just for a minute about product.   I just read recently that they’re introducing a new IS model an IS 500 with a V8 and all kinds of horsepower. What do know about that?

Stephen Aylward: Well, a few years back Akio Toyoda was embarrassed at the international car show when someone in the crowd mentioned that Lexus was “boring.” And, it was at the time. Since 2013, Lexus has launched new product after new product. It continues to get better each year and the quality remains strong. So, the all-new IS 500 with a V8 does not surprise me whatsoever. We are looking forward to the new product coming out in the coming years and we are excited for the IS 500 as well.

Synergy Media: Let’s talk for a minute about the LQ.  Is that the name of the new flagship that’s rumored to be coming in 2022?

Stephen Aylward: They haven’t given us the nameplate yet, they still just call it “coming soon.  They’ve teased us a little bit with it. But what we understand is that we’re going to have an electric model, a battery electric version of every one of our models. It’s not going to look different. If you look at the NX, there’s going to be an NX battery version, an NX hybrid and NX gas and an NX F-Sport. So there’ll be a bunch of different drive trains. But this one you’re referring to, is really going to be the flagship of the electric kick off. And it’s going to be in direct competition with some of the Porsche-level electric vehicles”

Synergy Media: So everything in your lineup from smallest to biggest SUV and sedan will all have a an electric variant?

Stephen Aylward: That’s what we’re being told. So we’re hoping that’s the truth, as Lexus is usually pretty good about looking down the road, and they tell us, hey, this is what’s coming. And we’re never disappointed. We’re always like, wow, it’s even better than they told us. It’s based on history. You can take it to the bank.

Synergy Media: All right, one last question. I have to ask, have you ever driven an LFA?

Stephen Aylward: I’ve never driven an LFA. My claim to fame was in Tokyo when I toured the plant. And we did go to the Fuji Speedway. And I drove the LC 500 on the speedway. And the day I was there it was on and off, pouring rain. And so I was doing 184 kilometers an hour, which is about 135. And, and I felt like I was only driving 80 because that car is so comfortable. I was in a sports car coupe, I felt so comfortable and in control in the pouring rain. And there was a pace car ahead of me that I couldn’t see because there was so much rain, the only time I knew where that car was when the pace car hit the brakes, that’s when I knew I was coming upon a corner. They didn’t let us go fast around the corners. The Fuji Speedway has the longest straightaway in the world. And that was where we got to really drive them. My business partner that I was there with,was driving after the rain stopped, and he was doing about 185 miles an hour when I was doing about 135 miles an hour on that straightaway. So that’s not an LFA but an LC.

Synergy Media: Well, Steve, thanks for joining us today. We appreciate you taking the time. We look forward to speaking with you again.

Stephen Aylward: Thank you very much for your time. Appreciate it. Take care.

Wed, 2/24 6:56AM • 17:59


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