Report: Lexus GS Almost Cancelled by Akio Toyoda

2013 Lexus GS

Have to share this excellent AutoWeek article by Mark Rechtin that details how the Lexus GS was almost cancelled due to internal bureaucracy:

Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda had put the GS on the chopping block, but a last-ditch effort from U.S. and European executives saved the car. In the process, the company overhauled the way Lexus executives report to top management in Japan–giving the luxury brand a stronger voice at the highest levels of the company.

“I didn’t want this car,” Toyoda said at the debut of the GS, which goes on sale in early 2012. But Lexus’ regional management teams “fought me like crazy.”

“There were some executives, including Akio, who thought, in terms of our priority list, that the GS should be delayed or canceled,” said Andrew Coetzee, now U.S. vice president of Lexus Brand Development.

Coetzee says Toyoda’s pessimism resulted from the many layers of Japanese executives through which Lexus’ overseas managers reported. Only when Lexus’ global team members appealed directly to Toyoda did the boss change his mind.

Even though it’s almost impossible to imagine a Lexus lineup without the GS, it’s easy to see how the third-generation GS’ poor sales and general inability to compete with the segment leaders would lead to some very difficult decisions.

Now, corporate handwringing is one thing, but how Akio Toyoda dealt with the issue is another:

Company officials say Toyoda decided there was a flaw in the system. As part of the company’s management reorganization in April, he created a new reporting structure that gives Lexus more influence.

Previously, at least four layers of r&d, sales and marketing executives in Japan separated Toyoda from overseas executives responsible for the Lexus brand. But a new Lexus Product and Market Planning Division was formed with a direct line to Toyoda.

The division is headed by Japan-based executive Karl Schlicht, who reports to managing officer Kiyotaka Ise. Ise, whose only responsibility is Lexus, reports to Toyoda.

Unafraid to change his mind, Toyoda-san saw a fundamental issue that needed addressing and then set about solving the real problem, cutting away the levels between himself and the people responsible for the brand’s direction.

Of course, by surviving its near-cancellation and causing all this high-level change as a result, the fourth-generation Lexus GS also has to live up to some heightened expectations — something that’s hinted by this comment by TMS CEO Yoshi Inaba:

“The GS may be low volume [in the past], but it is symbolic of the new Lexus,” said Yoshi Inaba, CEO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

Considering the early test drive reviews and my time with the car last week, I think this new GS has what it takes to truly compete in the market, especially considering this final article quote:

The hybrid version will be unveiled at the Frankfurt auto show next month. An F-Sport model, equipped with a suspension and body package, and possibly a supercharger, will be seen at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in November in Las Vegas.

I’ve been hearing whispers about a GS supercharger since early this year, though this is the first media mention I’ve seen — needless to say, there’s some very exciting times ahead.

Read the full AutoWeek Lexus GS Article