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.