Corvette savior Jim Perkins dies at 83
Jim Perkins, former General Manager of Chevrolet and savior of the Corvette, passed away at the age of 83 in Charlotte, North Carolina, this past Friday. A life-long Chevrolet faithful, Perkins also spent time as an executive of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. prior to his return to the storied American brand in 1989.
Perkins started at General Motors during the 1960s, working on the line that turned returned warranty parts into scrap. While laboring in this unglamorous job, he fell in love with Chevrolet and dreamt of owning a dealership. He rose quickly through the ranks for 20 years at GM, eventually arriving at the role of General Manager.
He then left General Motors in 1984, spending five years at Toyota to launch Lexus, the company’s then-new luxury division. Of course, Lexus ended up a smash success. By 1989 he was homeward bound and reclaimed a position with GM during a time when Chevrolet was lackluster in almost every category that shoppers desired.
Perkins set about putting the brand back on track, and that included staying the axe set to fall on the Corvette. Perkins found the funds he needed to save the storied sports-car marque by reallocating marketing budgets to the engineering team. This was a critical move for the ultimate creation of the C5 Corvette, which ultimately debuted in 1997 and ushered the Corvette into premier sports car territory.
Shortly after the turnaround at Chevrolet, Perkins retired to Texas. That didn’t last long, and he soon relocated to North Carolina to lead Hendrick Automotive Group’s network of 100 dealers. In 2005, he transitioned to lead retail and racing options for four years, then headed up a new Hendrick operation dedicated to restoring classic cars, race cars, and high-performance Camaros.
Perkins will be especially missed by the Corvette community, and the National Corvette Museum has already shown support with legions of fans on social media. His profound influence at Chevrolet and Lexus will carry on for many years.