Former Chevrolet General Manager Jim Perkins, the wily, free-speaking, cowboy boot-wearing Texan who helped launch Lexus and then returned to Chevrolet and saved the Chevrolet Corvette from being axed in the 1990s, died Friday in Charlotte, N.C. He was 83.
Perkins began his General Motors career in 1960 the hard way — when he couldn't get an interview at Chevrolet's regional office in Dallas, he hung out in the lobby and approached anyone who would speak with him. Finally, he begged his way in to Chevrolet by taking a warehouse job scrapping parts returned under warranty.
That start was all it took. Perkins, who fell in love with Chevrolet as a child and dreamed of owning a Chevrolet dealership, was on his way.
During Perkins' first tenure at Chevrolet — chronicled in a 2011 profile published in Automotive News' 100th anniversary commemoration of the Chevrolet brand — he earned one promotion after another over the next two decades until, finally, he landed the top job at Chevrolet, general manager.
In 1984, Toyota came calling. Perkins was wooed away to work on the launch of the Japanese company's Lexus luxury division.