Motor Trend Interviews Former Lexus Global General Manager Karl Schlicht

While there may not be much new information in this Motor Trend interview with former Lexus Global general manager Karl Schlicht, there is some new insight into the development of the fourth-generation GS:

“The accountants wanted to combine the GS and [FWD] ES.” Even Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s CEO, was reportedly leaning toward canceling the car.

According to Schlicht, until 2011 there were six Toyota main board members whose remit touched Lexus, although none was really in charge. But then there was a radical shake-up, with Toyoda personally taking overall responsibility for Toyota’s luxury brand.

Toyoda reversed course on the GS and ordered Lexus be made more separate and accountable. “He attends the design reviews, and drives them all,” Schlicht said. “Under the old management, character got averaged out. Now Akio says, ‘If you don’t get it right, I’m stopping the car.'”

Merging the ES & GS into a single model would have been a cost-efficient move, but keeping them separate gives Lexus the ability to come at the midsize sedan segment from two different angles — something that no other top-tier luxury manufacturer can do.

In a way, keeping the ES & GS separate is similar to how the European brands have tried to compete with the Lexus RX — by building a smaller crossover and a larger crossover that straddle the size (and features) of the segment-leading Lexus SUV, the German manufacturers are able to reach consumers looking for something more specific to their needs. In my mind, that’s exactly what the ES & GS combination does in the midsize market.

One other point I wanted to highlight from the interview:

On the subject of an F version of the new GS, he was optimistic but guarded. “There’s no approval yet,” he said. “But I’d love it.” If it were to be built, it would likely resemble the LF-Gh concept seen at the 2011 New York auto show.

Read the rest of the Motor Trend Interview with Karl Schlicht

EuropeIn the NewsLexus GS: Fourth Generation
  • C
  • April 17, 2012
If the new GS F, adapts the looks of the LF-Gh. #boner
That's right, Toyoda-san! Be the BO$$!
  • J
  • April 18, 2012
The decision that Toyota needed to make, and now needs to commit to, is to compete globally, not just in the USA. Akio Toyoda's first big decision would have been: should we shrink Lexus to be a USA-only brand; or should we take it global with all the massive investment that will need? He says he's decided on the second, which personally I'm very happy about. But Lexus still needs breakthrough products outside America. We don't any of these (yet).
  • J
  • April 22, 2012
Interesting that Toyota's accountants were thinking in terms of combining ES and GS due to their similar size. Most U.S. opinions have tended towards an IS and ES duality due to their similar pricing in North America. I'm glad to see that Lexus has decided to continue offering new generations of all 3 sedan lines. Kevin, you make an interesting point in how the fact that RX's size falls in between BMW's X3 and X5, or between Audi's Q5 and Q7, or between Mercedes' GLK and ML, may well be part of the secret of its success. Nonetheless, the lack of a sub-RX crossover SUV (presumably RAV4-derived) is one of the 2 biggest holes in Lexus' current lineup in my opinion (the lack of a small TT / SLK / Z4 / Boxster-rivalling 2-seat roadster being the other).