Tragedy is painful reminder of VW execs killed over Lockerbie

DETROIT - As Stu Hamilton of Volkswagen of America Inc. watched the terrorist attacks unfold on TV, he felt a rush of emotions that were all too familiar and painful.

Hamilton, a VW executive in San Antonio, recalled the loss of two popular VW executives in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on Dec. 21, 1988, over Lockerbie, Scotland. The blast killed 259 on the plane and 11 on the ground.

James Fuller, vice president in charge of VW of America, and marketing director Lou Marengo were among those killed on the plane.

"I've had the same inner emotions go roaring through me that I had when Jim and Lou were killed," Hamilton said. "It's strange to feel those things again for the same reasons."

The Lockerbie bombing was the first time terrorism had a direct impact on the U.S. auto industry.

Hamilton learned of the World Trade Center attacks from a phone call from a VW dealer in Austin, Texas. "I went in and turned it on (the TV), and they almost immediately showed the video of the second plane attacking the south tower," he said.

Last Tuesday's tragedy also reminded Bob Kissick, owner of Boardwalk Auto Center Volkswagen in Redwood City, Calif., of the 1988 bombing. He was a friend of Fuller's.

"I was thinking of him today after this terrible tragedy," Kissick said. "I lost a dear friend on the plane."

He said dealers were stunned by the loss. "The Germans didn't like him as well as the Americans," Kissick said of Fuller. "He would stand toe to toe with them and argue for Volkswagen of America."

It was because of Fuller that many VW dealers stuck it out in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when sales were awful, Kissick said. "He was a big catalyst for a lot of us to stay dealers."

For John Jelinek, Ford Motor Co.'s car communications manager in Dearborn, Mich., last Tuesday "brought everything back to Pan Am 103. I knew Jim Fuller, but I went to high school with Lou Marengo out in Los Angeles - Loyola High School, Class of 1973."

Jelinek said that in late 1988 he was moving back to Michigan, and looking forward to renewing his friendship with Marengo. "This tragic occurrence really jogged some memories."

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