I’ve been in the auto industry for nearly 30 years, and I’m not easily impressed by typical people or product.
And this is some of what’s grabbed my attention.
1: Technology and Guts
Say what you want about luxury electrics and self-driving cars, but gutsy groups such as Waymo and Tesla are moving our industry in a direction that’s inevitable and pretty cool. Not just with cleaner and smarter ways to drive, but with challenges to what we’ve been conditioned to see as “the way it’s always been done”. Watch the video on Waymo / Chrysler developing safety layers and intuitive responses to the conditions around the car. Hard not to be impressed. And when it comes to brash, cool and clean luxury, Tesla has become THE trailblazer in the industry. Both companies are pushing us to a place of discomfort – and it’s exactly what our industry needs.
Sergio and Alan.
Marchionne and Mulally. Hard chargers both. With very different strategies and tactics.
One bet big on Chrysler Group (Full Disclosure: I’m a life-long Jeep owner and loyalist) where several big names failed big. And one bet Ford’s history – and house – in hopes of survival (Full Disclosure: I’ve never been a fan of the Ford product). Both succeeded – and in wildly different ways. Marchionne: Industry insider and poster-boy for willing his people – and working his vision – to success. He shrewdly “stole” the Chrysler Group from an inept U.S. Treasury, and settled Chrysler’s debt to the the U.S. Taxpayer with far more favorable results (for you and me) than did FCA’s domestic cousin in downtown Detroit. Mulally: Industry outsider who strategically funded the lean years with company assets and re-wrote the way the company operated. He changed the culture and stopped the bleeding. An aircraft guy who became a Ford legend.
Both men gave their much larger domestic rival a roadmap to winning in the US – the right way.
3: Transplants Leading by Example
Nissan – They recruit strategically. And their sales have begun to challenge the old guard. So it’s no surprise that TMS is following their lead to the South Central US.
Subaru – Does any brand have the hard-wired loyalty of its customers like these guys? And that translates into profits and record sales. Every freaking quarter.
Toyota – Many pretenders to their throne. Controversies and fines at every turn. And a move to Dallas in the works. So what? The big silver T keeps rollin’ along. Sales. Profits. Global leadership.
Mercedes-Benz – Sure BMW is a worthy challenger. And Lexus and Hyundai have established their own places on the luxury map. But c’mon, MBUSA is THE bullet-proof premium brand in the US. Long-live the King.
Bruce Martin is the President of Broad & Pattison, Inc., the leading management recruiting and executive search firm serving the U.S. automotive industry. His career includes executive assignments with DaimlerChrysler, GE Capital and Adecco, NA. Mr. Martin is a member of the Board of Directors for the Career & Networking Center, a Not-For-Profit based in Naperville, IL, and he serves on the industry Advisory Board of motormindz, an automotive Think-Tank based in suburban Detroit, MI. Follow Bruce on Twitter and LinkedIn.