Carroll Shelby died on May 10, 2012.
The auto industry lost some big names in 2012 -- Shelby, Porsche, Pininfarina, Poling -- who made their mark in design, racing, supplier relations, marketing and leadership, often during turbulent times.
Here's a look back at some notable executives and innovators who died this year.
Dan Knott, Chrysler Group's former purchasing boss who restored the company's reputation with suppliers, died of cancer on April 29, two weeks after taking medial retirement. He was 51. Knott stopped the practice of abruptly changing suppliers to save trivial amounts of money on a part. He paid suppliers promptly and met regularly with supplier executives. He also increased business opportunities for suppliers owned by women and minorities. "He has always been totally ethical, totally right in terms of being committed to doing the right thing," said Neil De Koker, CEO of the Original Equipment Supplier Association at the time Chrysler announced Knott's retirement. Knott joined Chrysler in 1988, five years after receiving his engineering degree from Michigan State University, where he earned an M.B.A. in 2002. He was named senior vice president for purchasing and supplier quality in December 2009, soon after the company emerged from bankruptcy. He previously had worked for American Motors Corp. and Bendix Electronics.
Ferdinand Alexander "Butzi" Porsche, designer of the original 911 sports car, died in April at age 76. He was the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, who created the original Volkswagen. He designed the first 911 in 1962 and later developed Porsche race cars. He left Porsche in 1972 with other family members when it became a joint stock company. He then founded the Porsche Design Studio, where he developed watches, eyeglasses, writing utensils and other products. The automaker unveiled the seventh-generation 911 in September.
"As creator of the Porsche 911, he established a design culture that molds our sports cars still today," Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller said in April. "His philosophy of good design is for us a legacy that we will also honor in the future." His credo was "design must be functional, and the functionality must be visually implemented without gags that need to be explained," the company said in a statement.
Carroll Shelby, racer, automaker, marketer and entrepreneur, died May 10 at age 89. Shelby, a car dealer and chicken rancher from east Texas, began racing part-time. In 1959 he was part of the team that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in Europe. In 1960 a heart condition forced him to retire from racing, and he began working full-time in race car design and auto manufacturing. In 1962, with help from Ford Motor Co.'s Lee Iacocca, Shelby built the popular AC Cobra. Later Ford asked him to take on another team of factory-built Ford GTs, and in 1965 Shelby won the FIA sports car championship. In 1966, Shelby became the only man to win Le Mans as a driver, team owner and manufacturer when the GTs won the overall Le Mans championship and the Cobra Daytona Coupe had a class win. Shelby received the 2011 Keith Crain/Automotive News Lifetime Achievement Award at the Washington Auto Show. Keith Crain, Automotive News' editor-in-chief, said at the time: "If ever there was an icon in our industry, Carroll Shelby is it. He has been the driving force behind putting power and performance in great American cars and thereby representing our industry throughout the world, both on the race track and the highway."
Red Poling, the CEO who helped revive Ford Motor Co. after the recession of the early 1990s, died in May at age 86. Poling joined Ford in 1951 as a cost analyst in the controller's office in the company's steel division, He rose through the finance ranks, working at several positions in Europe and North America. Under Poling's leadership as president, Ford's profits surpassed those of much-larger General Motors in the late 1980s. Ford's profits continued to rise, hitting what then was an industry record of $5.3 billion in 1988. Poling became chairman and CEO of Ford from 1990 to 1994.The company gave him a special exemption from its mandatory retirement age of 65, allowing him to stay on as chairman until 1994.
"With a list of accomplishments that span 43 years, including leading the company through a remarkable turnaround during the 1980s and 1990s, Red was respected by all for his leadership, his passion for being the low-cost producer, and his genuine affinity for people," Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said.
Sergio Pininfarina, who ran the famous Italian automotive design company of the same name for 40 years, died in July after a long illness at age 85. He had the last word on the company's design projects for almost 50 years. During his time there, Pininfarina created some of the most famous concept cars of the 20th century, including the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT, the 1975 Lancia Beta Montecarlo and the 2003 Maserati Quattroporte. He joined his family's company in 1950. He became CEO of Pininfarina in 1961, taking on the additional role of chairman in 1996 after the death of his father and company founder, Battista "Pinin" Farina.
Sergio Pininfarina believed design should be not only beautiful but as simple as possible. "Ever since I was a young boy, I remember my father yelling out to his staff: "Make it simpler!" Sergio once said.
During his time as head of the company, Pininfarina introduced its three most successful production models: the Fiat 124 Sport Spider, built from 1966 to 1985; the Alfa Romeo Spider, produced from 1966 to 1993; and the Peugeot 406 coupe, built from 1996 to 2004.
Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker who inspired world leaders and business owners, including auto dealers, died in November in Texas. He was 86. Ziglar spoke at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in 1992. "I know if anyone can inspire us, you can," Mick McIlwain, NADA director at the time, said in introducing Ziglar at the convention after a "rough year" for the industry. Ziglar was a World War II veteran who grew up in Yazoo City, Miss. In the late 1960s he became director of Automotive Performance Co. in Dallas. He wrote more than 30 books on salesmanship and motivation.
Stanford Ovshinsky, an inventor and founder of Energy Conversion Devices Inc. who dedicated his life to finding alternative forms of energy, died in October of cancer. He was 89. His inventions are used in a wide variety of electronics and in gasoline-electric hybrids, including the Toyota Prius. Ovshinsky's patented NiMH battery chemistry also was used in millions of electronic devices such as laptop computers, digital cameras and mobile phones. He was awarded more than 400 patents in the United States and more than 800 foreign patents. Ovshinsky later founded Ovshinsky Solar LLC to try to make solar cells so efficient they could compete with coal-fired electricity at a low cost. In 2010 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Michigan.
Ed Morse, a longtime Florida dealer who expanded his dealership group into one of the largest in the state, died in July at age 91. Although he retired as CEO of the dealership group in 2006, he remained chairman. His son Ted now leads the group. Morse entered automotive retailing in 1961, buying into Morse-Holland Ford in Miami. He began buying more dealerships in 1968, and added 28 dealerships in the 1980s-90s. In July the group said it owned 15 locations throughout the state. In a 1997 interview with Automotive News, Morse said his top priority was ensuring customer loyalty.
Alex Mair, former group executive in charge of General Motors' technical staff and general manager of the automaker's Pontiac and GMC divisions, died in May. He was 91. Mair was named group executive of GM's technical staffs in November 1978 and remained in the post until he retired in 1986. He became general manager of GMC in 1972 and general manager of Pontiac in 1975. After graduating from the General Motors Institute, he became a detailer for Chevrolet in 1943 and later served in various executive and engineering positions. In 1972 Mair told Automotive News that assembly line workers shouldn't be blamed for poor vehicle quality and that the problems had roots further up the production and design chain.
Thomas Russell, the former chairman and CEO of Federal-Mogul Corp. who led the company throughout the 1970s-80s, died in June. He was 88. Nicknamed "The Velvet Hammer," Russell was known for his tough but friendly management style as he successfully led the supplier through a profitable decade in the 1980s. Russell was born in Detroit in 1924 and first joined Federal-Mogul as a mail boy in 1942. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he rejoined the auto supplier in 1946 as an accountant. He rose through the company's finance ranks and became CEO in 1975 and chairman in 1976, leading the company for 14 years before retiring in 1989.
Stanley Seneker, former Ford Motor Co. CFO who ran the company's finances during the turnaround period during the late 1980 and early 1990s, died in July. He was 81. During his seven years as CFO he reported to three different CEOs: Don Peterson, Harold Polling and Alex Trotman. He spent 38 years at Ford, serving in multiple financial positions. He became executive vice president of Ford Motor Land Development and president of Ford Motor Credit before taking on the CFO job in 1987. Journalist L.J. Davis of Harper's magazine wrote in 1988 that Seneker assumed the CFO post "at a moment when the American CFO has achieved remarkable prominence in the corporate scheme of things."
Martin Swig, former auto dealer and vintage car enthusiast credited with inventing the modern auto mall, died in July of a stroke. He was 78. According to his obituary, Swig intended to pursue a career in automotive design, but his father insisted he go to Stanford University. After graduating in 1956 with an economics degree, he began his auto retailing career a year later in 1957 as a salesman at European Motors in San Francisco. He opened a Datsun dealership in 1969, and in 1982 he opened the San Francisco Autocenter, a multifranchise dealership selling 17 brands under one roof. The Autocenter was thought to be the first auto mall. In 1991 he founded the California Mille, a 1,000-mile race-car tour.
Kim Custer, a longtime public relations executive at Kia Motors of America and Mitsubishi Motors, died in May. He was 62. Custer, an avid car lover, had a jovial personality that he applied to his 22-year career in the auto industry, former colleagues told Automotive News. From 1988 to 2001 Custer was Mitsubishi's head of corporate communications and public relations. After resolving a dispute with the Rainforest Action Network by getting Mitsubishi to stop using "old-growth forest products," he moved on to Kia in 2002, where he spent four years as corporate communications director. Carter last worked for the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers from 2007-10 as director of communications.
Warren McEleney, a second-generation dealer and former president of the National Automobile Dealers Association, died in March at age 90. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II and receiving a degree in mechanical engineering, he joined the family business, McEleney Motors, in Clinton, Iowa, in 1946. He was named dealer operator in 1951 and chairman in 1985. McEleney held many positions, including chairman of Chevrolet's national dealer council twice; chairman of Oldsmobile's national dealer council; and a member of the General Motors President's Advisory Council. He was Active in NADA for many years and was elected president in 1971. In 2009 his son John was elected NADA chairman.
Gordon MacKenzie, former vice president of Ford Motor Co. who was head of sales for Ford Europe, died in March at age 90. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, MacKenzie joined Ford in 1954 as an analyst. After holding management positions in dealer development and district sales, he was named general sales manager of Ford Division in 1964, soon after the Mustang was launched. MacKenzie was general marketing manager for the division from 1968 to 1970, then general sales manager until 1973. That year he was named vice president of sales at Ford of Europe, where he was responsible for the successful launch of the Ford Fiesta. He was elected a vice president of Ford Motor in 1973. A few years later he returned to Europe for a second time as vice president of sales. He retired from Ford Motor in 1986.