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FOR 25 YEARS, Peter Brown has been editor or editorial director of Automotive News, which is the weekly newspaper of the multifaceted automotive industry. He’s approaching retirement and, in the April 22, 2013 issue, Brown offers his Petey Awards for “some of the best and worst in automotive adventures” of the last quarter century. Here’s a summary of the more general ones, each headed by a “•.” Modest observations of my own are in subsequent paragraphs.
• Most significant vehicle. The Toyota Prius, “the only high-volume, affordable vehicle with an alternative powertrain.”
Amen. The Prius is leading the way, with a considerable lead.
• Worst car. “No, not the Yugo, which at least fit its brand. The Jaguar X-Type.”
The X-Type, designed during Ford ownership and built 2001-2009, was the smallest of Jaguar’s line. Under the skin, it had a modified Ford CD132 platform sharing kinship with Ford’s Mondeo. A bit too small; a bit too Ford.
• Best visionaries. Renault’s Louis Schweitzer and his right-hand man Carlos Ghosn. In forming the Renault-Nissan Alliance, they “created huge benefits for both.”
I’d be cautious about the Alliance’s commitment to battery electrics. But then I confess I’m no visionary; I like Morgans.
• Worst visionary. Juergen Schrempp, who formed DaimlerChrysler, and whose “insincere ‘merger of equals’ … put Chrysler on a path to death.”
So true, and left Chrysler a sitting duck for the Best Dealmaker (see below). Brown’s lesson is noteworthy: “Beware visionaries. Execution matters.”
• Best Dealmaker. Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne, who “executed.”
He sure did: Marchionne finessed a couple billion dollars from GM, then used it to save Chrysler out of bankruptcy. Plus, the man’s energy is legendary.
• Worst Dealmakers. GM’s Jack Smith and Rick Wagoner, for “buying all or parts of weak automakers: Saab, Fiat, Isuzu, Suzuki, Subaru, ending in tears.”
Yeah, and setting the stage for Marchionne’s finesse. Notice, he got Chrysler for free.
• Worst New Technology. Keyless ignition, which allows you to “find yourself driving 200 miles from your car’s nearest fob.”
Agreed. Or the keyfob’s in my pocket when the hotel valet wants to move the car.
• Most Disappointing Technology. “The battery in electric cars. Better. Not good enough.”
Agreed, and a related comment is worth remembering: Brown will “keep a Petey on the shelf until the Great Electric Car Breakthrough (practical fuel cells with plentiful hydrogen or the 500-mile battery) finally wins the day—if ever.”
• Biggest Villain. Inaki Lopez, “the GM purchasing czar who violated suppliers, then betrayed CEO Jack Smith by bolting to Volkswagen (with countless stolen documents) on the very day Smith was holding a press conference to introduce Lopez as head of North America.”
What a slimeball. Notes Brown: “Beware True Believers. They know with certainty that their ends justify their means.”
• Automaker CEO. Brown commends several but awards the Petey to Ford’s Alan Mulally “who took over a sinking Ford Motor Co. in 2006, then thrived in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.”
And, I observe, did it essentially without taxpayer bailout. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Mulally speak, when he said his entire business plan for Ford fit on a single piece of paper (which he displayed). Cut global duplication of efforts. Heed customers’ wishes. Build fuel-economical cars competitive in their segments—and don’t make more than you can sell.
And, to repeat, “execution matters.”
Thanks, Editor Brown. You’re going to be difficult to replace. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013