Jim Perkins was to be the keynote speaker at the Dallas Auto Show on January 20, but he cancelled saying he had the flu. Instead, later that day we all learned Jim was returning to GM to be the assistant manager of the Chevrolet division and the heir apparent to be general manager.
Chevrolet was GM’s largest division with 2.8 million sales a year and nearly 5,000 dealers. By comparison, Lexus was small potatoes with fewer than 100 dealers and maybe capable of selling 100,000 cars a year.
The media noted that Jim had been heading up one of Toyota’s most ambitious and important projects the company had ever undertaken. Speculation was that Jim knew something was wrong at Lexus and was moving to a better opportunity. This was the second strike, after the LexisNexis ruling, against Toyota in recent weeks and a huge coup for GM.
Chris Cedergren, an auto analyst for J.D. Power, noted, “It’s certainly a better position for Perkins. I would see him moving up very quickly.” Tom O’Grady of Integrated Automotive Resources said, “For Chevrolet, it’s great. He’s one of the better people in the industry. He’s good with dealers. He’s opened-minded. He’s straight-out.” Toyota was caught completely off guard, and there was sense of dismay throughout the organization. The press release downplayed Jim’s leaving, stating it was “somewhat of a surprise.” But we all knew differently.
Jim confided in me that it was a lifelong dream of his to run Chevrolet. “Besides,” he chuckled, “they offered me enough money to peal the enamel off a bathtub.”
Soon after that came strike three. David Wager, the president of Team One, resigned.
The media noted that it was only seven months until launch of the new division. We had no name and had lost the senior vice president—an experienced and well-respected industry leader who was heading up the division—and now the president of the advertising agency had suddenly quit. We had three strikes against us. The future of Toyota’s no-name luxury division looked uncertain at best. Who could take over for Jim Perkins?
“When I walk into the thick of trouble, keep me alive in the angry turmoil…Finish what you started in me, God. Your love is eternal—don’t quit on me now.” Psalm 138:7-8 (MSG)
The Japan staff thought I was too young. Bob McCurry thought I was too quiet. The media thought I was too unknown. Everyone else thought I was too inexperienced. But I knew things that none of them knew.
(To be continued in “My Secret”)