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#31 – Black Monday of 1987

by | Aug 18, 2016

The 1987 stock market was booming, fueled by low interest rates, buyouts, and merger mania. Corporations were growing, and excitement about the personal computer industry was revolutionizing business. This euphoria made investors believe that the stock market would always go up. The bull market was just what Lexus was counting on to expand the luxury market for the launch.


Bob McCurry and I flew back to Japan for a one-hour meeting in the design dome to give Toyota Motor Sales, USA’s final approval for the new ES 250. We got a hotel room to stay overnight in Tokyo, but when you fly to Japan for a one-hour meeting, you just don’t sleep. I wandered down to the lobby about 4:00 a.m. to find McCurry glued to the television.



It was Black Monday, October 19 in the U.S. The stock market was crashing. It was the largest one-day crash in history. The market lost 22.6% of its value or about $500 billion. Newspapers gave accounts of unstable individuals who had lost large amounts of money going to their brokers with guns. It was reported that some brokers were killed. It was an emotionally charged atmosphere. Individual investors overwhelmed the market trying to sell. The New York Times headline screamed “Stocks Plunge 508 points—Worldwide Impact.” After October 19, some of the stock exchanges closed. The Federal Reserve intervened to prevent further crises, stabilizing the U.S. economy.


It was shaken. The challenge of selling a new brand of Japanese luxury car was hard enough, but how could we sell 40,000 if the economy was in a recession? McCurry noticed my concern. He told me we had two years before the launch. He said to stay positive, keep my head down, and keep moving ahead—the market would come back. He was right, but there would be another big scare right before we launched.


We took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagoya later that morning and approved the ES 250. We were booked on a new American West flight out of Nagoya, Japan that went directly to LAX that evening. There were four other people on the 747 with the two of us. Things just didn’t feel right. We arrived back in Los Angeles Tuesday morning.


“Those who love money will never have enough.” Ecclesiastes 5:10 (NLT)


There is no rest for the weary. The following Sunday I would fly back to Japan. It was about this time that I received a letter from Mr. Jack Simpson, President and CEO of Lexis—a Meade Data Central legal research service—notifying us to discontinue using the Lexus name immediately, claiming trademark infringement. Dr. Toyoda received the same letter. Someone had to go talk to Mr. Simpson. They sent me.


(To be continued in “Lexus vs. Lexis: Round 1”)