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#38 – Lexus vs. LexisNexis Round 2: False Hopes

by | Sep 12, 2016

Jim Perkins and I arrived at LexisNexis headquarters in Dayton, Ohio on a cold January morning in early 1988. Before going to Dayton, Jim and I had been briefed by the Toyota legal team. The Lexis lawyers told the Toyota attorneys that we could expect Jack Simpson to make a good-faith offer to resolve the naming issue.


Jim Perkins and I were ushered into the same conference room I had been in twice before. The two of us sat on one side of the table before an entourage of about ten Lexis managers and attorneys walked in and sat down on the opposite side of the table.


Jim Perkins opened the meeting by stating that Lexus in no way would infringe on LexisNexis and would take great care to not confuse potential customers. Lexus was a high-end luxury car brand and would not do any marketing that could damage the Lexis brand. He went on to say he hoped we could find a way to resolve the naming issue in a win-win manner so that both companies could help one another.


Jack Simpson sat directly across from Jim. There was an awkward silence. I felt a chill. Something was very wrong. I could feel it in my bones. For the first time, Simpson talked. He spoke in a smooth and comforting tone.


He assured us LexisNexis also wanted to resolve the naming issue and wanted to offer a reasonable solution. That solution, he cooed, was that all Lexus advertising, television, radio, newspaper, magazine, brochures, etc. devote 25% of the Lexus space to Lexis. As an example, if Lexus ran a TV commercial, the last 10 seconds of the ad would be devoted to Lexis—and they would determine the content. The same would apply to all radio, newspaper, and magazine advertising.


Jim quietly asked how long this would last. With a slight grin, Jack Simpson replied in casual indifference that it would last as long as Lexus lasted.


I went into a sort of trance, trying to absorb what I had just heard. I was grateful Jim was there. He was in no trance. He politely thanked them for their time, abruptly stood, and left. This meeting was over before it started. I grabbed my briefcase and ran after Jim.


We were about halfway to the airport before Jim said anything. He turned to me and said, “That’s a bad guy, and those are bad people. We can’t let them get way with this.”



“Smooth talk from an evil heart is like glaze on cracked pottery.” Proverbs 26:23 (MSG)
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We had no name, but we had to keep moving forward. It was time to start addressing one of the most important areas of concern for Lexus: customer satisfaction. The man who would lead Lexus in this area grew up in a small Midwest town with a population of 125 people, Sharpsburg, Iowa, where he learned how to “treat people right.” But before Dick Chitty would set up the guidelines for what good customer satisfaction was, we all needed to agree on what good customer satisfaction was not.


(To be continued in “What Good Customer Satisfaction is Not”)