Chika Kako of Lexus International and Other Female Automotive Innovators

Chika Kako with the 2014 Lexus CT 200h

Chika Kako with the 2014 Lexus CT 200h

Anyone who follows Lexus has seen the recent interview  from the Lexus CT 200h launch event in Rome where Chika Kako spoke about the design and development of the new Lexus CT hybrid. We at Mungenast Lexus of St. Louis are also excited about the 2014 CT 200h— in fact, we were just out reviewing the vehicle ourselves with our in-house expert Scott West (see the video below). However, we were particularly intrigued by Kako herself, the first female Chief Engineer for Lexus international, and were inspired to take a closer look at Kako and some of the other women that have made innovations in the automotive industry.


Chika Kako: Today’s Female Automotive Innovator

Chika Kako joined the Toyota Motor Corporation in 1989 as a material engineer. She undertook various roles in the company, and became the first woman to be posted overseas for Toyota R&D when transferred to Toyota Motor Europe in Belgium in 2001. In Belgium, she worked on the perceived quality and sensory quality with Kansei engineering approach. Since 2005, she has assisted the Chief Engineers of Lexus RX and IS, and she hails her experience developing the LFA on the campaign that shaped the Lexus engineering vision of making cars more fun to drive as the highlight of her career.

Chika Kako, Chief Engineer of the CT

Chika Kako: Chief Engineer of the CT


We’re sure this is only one of many highlights to come for Kako, who was named the Chief Engineer of the CT in June of last year. She brought some of her LFA mentality with her into the CT project; she emphasized in the interview that the 2014 Lexus CT 200h is designed to be a fun car to drive and maintains a balance between sporty handling and ride comfort. To appease the needs of all drivers, she focused on creating a quieter engine while maintaining the speed and power of the CT.  ”My biggest passion is to make a cool interior with innovative solutions and a warm atmosphere,” she explains in the interview, and as we recently had the privilege of sitting in the 2014 CT, we can assure you that she achieved this goal. It’s absolutely a vehicle that drivers and passengers will be excited to get into and will find hard to leave.

Let’s look back at some other female innovators in the automotive industry.


Mary Anderson, Inventor of the Windshield Wiper

Mary Anderson, Inventor of the Windshield Wiper

Mary Anderson: Inventor of the Windshield Wiper

It’s a rainy day here in St. Louis, and it would have been a difficult task driving into work without windshield wipers. If you want to know who to thank for those two semi-circles of visibility during poor weather conditions, look to the Alabama-based inventor Mary Anderson, who was granted a patent for the windshield wiper in 1903. Her vision wasn’t far off from what we use today: she proposed a swinging arm with a rubber blade that could be operated manually by a lever inside the car. To ensure contact between the wiper and the winder, Anderson used a counterweight (see a PDF of her original patent here to learn more about the mechanics).  Similar devices had been made earlier, but Anderson’s was the first to be effective. Interestingly, she attempted to sell the rights to her invention two years later but was unsuccessful because most firms claimed it wouldn’t be used commercially enough to account for undertaking its sale. Well, we all know it was their loss; windshield wipers became standard in 1916, 13 years after Anderson was granted her patent.



Florence Lawrence: Inventor of the Turn Signal and Brake Light

Florence Lawrence: Inventor of the Turn Signal and Brake Light

 Florence Lawrence: Inventor of the Turn Signal and Brake Light

Many people know Florence Lawrence as a Hollywood silent film star. It would appear that her success in silent films facilitated her genius for nonverbal communication — even nonverbal communication between vehicles. Lawrence was passionate about cars, and her success in Hollywood allowed her to purchase her first vehicle in 1913. She loved to add modifications and accessories, and in a move that increased the safety of drivers exponentially, she invented both the turn signal and the brake lights. She called her turn signal an “auto signaling arm,” and it consisted of a button that would raise or lower an arm with an attached sign that indicated the direction of the turn. Similarly, her brake sign consisted of a button that raised an arm with an attached sign indicating that she was about to stop. Many others in the automotive industry soon capitalized on her invention, as, unlike Anderson, Lawrence never applied for a patent.  Yet, she has still gone down in history as one of the original automotive innovators.


The Future of Women in Automotive Innovation

The presence and importance of women in automotive engineering continues to grow, thanks to women such as Lexus’s Chika Kako, and the early inventors such as Anderson and Lawrence. Additionally, the Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation (AWAF), a professional organization dedicated to the advancement of women in the global automotive industry, ensures the advancement and empowerment of women in the future automotive industry. Find out more about their mission and vision here.


Want to learn more about Chika Kako’s 2014 Lexus CT 200h? Take a closer look at the vehicle and our other inventory at the Mungenast Lexus of St. Louis website. Or, come into Lexus dealership in St. Louis, MO, today for a test drive. You won’t regret it.


Mungenast Lexus of St. Louis is a member of the Mungenast Automotive Family. Learn more about our Alton and St. Louis car dealerships. 


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