Auto CEOs: "Car Guys" Need Not Apply

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams

Do you need to be a "car guy" to run an automobile company? Not according to Micheline Maynard, author of The End of Detroit. Writing for The New York Times, Ms. Maynard defines a car guy as someone who "can be credited for inspiring or developing anything on the roads today." GM lifer Rick Wagoner will not be pleased to hear he's been excluded from the club– despite overseeing the introduction of more than 35 new models during his seven-year tenure. Anyway, given the current state of the American auto industry, you'd think Ms Maynard would be arguing for car guys. Nope. "Car guys were responsible for Detroit's triumphs, they also steered the companies into trouble with errors in judgment that included relying too heavily on big sport-utility vehicles." Hmmm. That seems like that's more of a "beancounter" decision than a "car guy" move. Just sayin'.

Frank Williams
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  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Aug 13, 2007

    While no one was looking, non-oil guys have been taking over that industry. The oil industry though was a model of efficiency, that now, under MBA's are even more efficient. That is - they make more money while finding and producing less product. OTOH, the car industry is plain sucking. They need outsiders badly. Not only can the big 3 not make money, they can't make that many desirable products. My solution is to take all the oil MBA's out of Houston and send them to Detroit. We will get more and cheaper fuel, and hopefully, not have to subsidize UAW pensions with out taxes.

  • Pch101 Pch101 on Aug 13, 2007
    Do you need to be a "car guy"? Contrary to what enthusiasts would like to believe, no, you don't. What you do need are (a) some folks who understand complex manufacturing, (b) some other folks who know how to figure out what customers will want and then translate that into product, and (c) a good brand that the consumer comprehends and likes. (If you can come up with (d) some sort of "special sauce" that makes your brand really stand out, so much the better.) A love of pistons and valves is not required, but you had better know something about how they get forged and assembled. A CEO should be a good strategist who probably knows more about production than does your average finance guy, but who can also see where the market is headed. He doesn't have to love cars, but he had better love the idea of pleasing customers with cars that they want.
  • Cmdnyc Cmdnyc on Aug 13, 2007

    Maybe this is what Jeff Bell meant when he left Chrysler to be a marketer and not a "car guy"...

  • Rtz Rtz on Aug 14, 2007

    I miss the muscle car era. 1965-1970.