First female chief engineer at Lexus discusses CT 200h update

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Chief Engineer Chika Kako stands next to a Fuji Red CT 200h F Sport. “We have developed a very strong, iconic exterior design language for our cars, a process that began with the GS and continues with the new CT 200h,” she said. “Making our cars more stylish and more fun to drive is what we’re aiming to achieve, while for me my biggest passion is to create a cool interior with innovative solutions and a warm atmosphere.”

The 2014 Lexus CT 200h that recently hit dealers was engineered under the direction of the brand’s first female engineer. Chika Kako assumed CE duties on the compact hybrid in June 2013, guiding 94 distinct changes to the model—“which for a mid-life program represents a huge effort,” she said. For the “best balance between ride comfort and dynamic performance,” Kako saw to an increase in body rigidity (via additional weld points), adjustments in springs and dampers, and adjustments for smoother feel and greater steering responsiveness. In addition, based on comments from owners of previous models, she oversaw changes that reduced transmission sound levels and resulted in a better correlation between transmission sound and engine speed through the rev range. Adjustments to aerodynamics helped the full hybrid powertrain deliver even greater efficiency, with CO2 levels cut across the board—from just 82 to 88 g/km across the range. Kako's past experience included work on the Lexus RX and Lexus IS. She is a materials engineer who joined Toyota in 1989, and in that position was responsible for developing materials for interiors and exteriors, as well as solving issues such as fogging. The first female Toyota Motor Corp. employee to be posted overseas in an R&D capacity, Kako worked in Europe from 2001 to 2004.

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