The bad times have taught us caution in a delicate world

“You can learn from bad behavior and good behavior. There's a lot of caution and wisdom that comes from peculiar leadership.”

That was Ralph Gilles' diplomatic response when asked about having worked for various Chrysler CEOs.

Gilles heads design at Chrysler Group, and he's president of the Dodge brand. He spoke at the Automotive News World Congress Wednesday evening.

Gilles said he no longer fears failure.

But he does worry that another global crisis could have an impact on the entire auto industry. He called it a “delicate” world.

His insights likely resonated with a lot of people — especially those in Detroit.

I joined Automotive News in late 2004 and was able to witness the tail end of the industry's good times. By 2006, Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Chrysler were slowly bleeding to death. Ford borrowed billions of dollars to fund a turnaround. In 2009, GM and Chrysler sought bankruptcy protection.

Out went the old guard, and in came new leaders. The companies have all regained a foothold.

And through it all Gilles and many of his Detroit counterparts have had a bird's-eye view of history. They survived it.

So their optimism will always have a subtext of caution.

And caution is good — it's born from the wisdom gained from mistakes past. c