What do you get as a retirement gift after 35 years of service? For Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.'s Bryan Bergsteinsson, a gold watch just wouldn't be right. Bergsteinsson, a group vice president whose posts have included overseeing the University of Toyota as well as general manager of Lexus Division, is a guy with gasoline in his veins. His fitting parting gift: The Lexus street rod concept that debuted at the 1998 Los Angeles auto show. Bergsteinsson championed the concept while running Lexus. Lexus shoehorned a 4.0-liter V-8 into a 1932 roadster body for a blistering 0-60 screamer. If you live near the Palos Verdes peninsula near Los Angeles, keep your ears open: That roar will be Bergsteinsson coming.
It sure beats a gold watch
THE SHRIMP WATCH -- The mood at General Motors' holiday media reception this month wasn't exactly somber. But, given GM's tough year, it was far from jubilant. CEO Rick Wagoner told the assembled journalists that executives were eager to put 2005 behind them. He also said they look for a revenue boost when the 2007 full-sized SUVs and pickups are launched next year. Despite his bumps and bruises, Wagoner could still manage a bit of levity. Making reference to the conventional media wisdom that you can judge a company's fortunes by the size of the shrimp at its holiday party, Wagoner noted that GM's shrimp were one size above popcorn. But, he quickly added, they featured "all domestic content."
PRICY NOSTALGIA -- Chevrolet's HHR isn't the only heritage product coming out of General Motors. GM's Heritage Center is selling meticulous replicas of vintage neon dealer signs from the 1940s and 1950s. The Heritage Center, a museum of classic GM cars in suburban Detroit, contracted with Industrial Sign Corp. of Houston to reproduce the signs, down to the fastener placement of the originals. But they aren't cheap. The signs, priced at $2,995 to $3,995, are aimed at dealers and car collectors. They're about 5 feet wide and are being built in editions of 100 per brand, except for Chevrolet. "There are so many Chevrolet collectors that we decided to do 200," says Larry Falloon, a retired GM designer who now is a consultant to GM.