Remembering those who passed away in 2013
Toyoda made Toyota Motor Corp. into a powerhouse. Many Americans will remember Toyoda, who died in September at age 100, as the man who laid out the vision for the Lexus brand. But that was just the logical extension of his lifetime's achievement.
When the Korean War began in 1950, the U.S. military decided that rather than scrap Toyota's truck factories, as had been the Occupation's plan, they needed them to supply the United Nations forces fighting in Korea. So they sent Eiji (AY'-jee), who had helped set up his family's vehicle manufacturing company, to Detroit to learn from Ford Motor Co.
He went back to Japan and took what was a parochial manufacturer in the boondocks and made it better and better. He championed a radical rethinking of manufacturing, led by the legendary Taiichi Ohno, which replaced the volume goals of mass production with the quality focus of the Toyota Production System. Automakers around the globe eventually copied it. Superb manufacturing expertise set Toyota apart from its rivals, and that was Eiji's doing.
Richard E. Dauch
Dauch, the founder of American Axle & Manufacturing whose 50-year auto career also included helping resuscitate Chrysler three decades ago and managing Volkswagen's first U.S. plant, died in August at age 71.
In 1993, Dauch turned five General Motors plants in Michigan and New York into American Axle. The company had sales of $2.9 billion in 2012, when his son, David, succeeded him as CEO. Dauch cleaned up a Detroit neighborhood, built American Axle's headquarters and arm-wrestled workers on the assembly line. But in 2008 he was vilified by the UAW during a bitter 84-day strike that contributed to the closing of American Axle's Detroit plant as production shifted to Mexico. He started the company after retiring in 1991 as manufacturing chief at Chrysler. Dauch began his auto career at GM in 1964.
John K. Teahen Jr.
Teahen, who chronicled the auto industry's biggest stories and most powerful players for Automotive News with a unique blend of tenacity and grace for more than five decades, died in January after a long illness.
He was born on Aug. 20, 1925, in Detroit. A week later, the first issue of Automotive Daily News was published in New York. They would come together three decades later.
Teahen's first byline appeared in Automotive News on Nov. 14, 1955. His last was posted on autonews.com on Sept. 18, 2012, a month after he turned 87. In between, he enhanced hundreds of columns, news stories and editorials with a peerless writing touch; mentored generations of reporters and editors; and provided valuable perspective on the industry's triumphs and failures. He created what have become staples of industry scorekeeping, including an annual dealer census and tallies of automakers' sales per dealership.
Over the years, Teahen was associate editor, assistant managing editor, managing editor and, for a quarter century, senior editor. He had a reputation for having the most energetic writing style in a newsroom filled with colleagues half his age. He retired in 2009 at age 83. In retirement, Teahen returned to his desk twice a month to write his "Sales Tales" column.
Sharf, who led Chrysler's international business development efforts in the 1980s, died in August. He was 92. After working eight years at Ford, Sharf began his 28-year Chrysler career in 1958 as a master mechanic at the Twinsburg, Ohio, stamping plant. He retired as the executive vice president of Chrysler's international business development group in 1986.
Bruce, the first general manager of Nissan's Infiniti division when it was launched in 1989, died in May at age 70. He was a pioneer in bringing customer service pampering to automobile dealerships.
Caldwell was a self-described noncar guy, a planner and plodder in an era of larger-than-life car executives. He came across as bland, yet the ex-Ford chairman goes down as one of the auto industry's all-time great risk-takers. He almost certainly saved Ford Motor Co. in the 1980s by fervently backing the first-generation Taurus, a midmarket sedan with an eccentric shape that many inside Ford thought was a disaster waiting to happen. It was the last act in a momentous auto career. Caldwell died in July at age 93.
Caldwell, who had joined Ford in 1953, became president in 1978 after Henry Ford II fired Lee Iacocca. Ford then chose Caldwell as his successor, first as CEO in 1979 and as chairman the following year. As president and then CEO, Caldwell presided over a turnaround. Ford endured almost $3.3 billion of losses during two U.S. recessions from 1980 through 1982.
Anyone who grew up in Southern California after World War II can sing along to the Cal Worthington banjo jingles that infected late-night TV advertising. But there was more to Worthington than the hippo-riding, bear-rasslin' Ford dealer whose zany commercials punctuated midnight monster movies. Worthington's folksy charm helped to spawn an auto retailing empire and pervaded his dealings with customers and employees. Worthington, who died in September at 92, at one point owned 32 dealerships along the West Coast.
After World War II, Worthington bought a Hudson dealership near downtown Los Angeles. He traded up to a Ford store in 1964. To promote the business, he bought TV time for country music shows that he produced and hosted at his dealerships. Among the rising stars who appeared on his show were Johnny Cash, Buck Owens and Roger Miller. But when production costs got too high, he turned to TV advertising.
The ads that made Worthington famous started as a spoof of 1950s commercials that featured a rival Ford dealer and his German shepherd, Storm. In the Worthington version, it was a gorilla that he called his "dog, Spot." So began a running gag that over decades of ads would show Worthington in his trademark Stetson with tigers, ostriches, elephants and even a killer whale posing as Spot. The wacky promotions, backed by the refrain "Go See Cal" sung to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It," led the Television Bureau of Advertising to cite him as "probably the best-known car dealer pitchman in television history."
Qvale, the auto-retailing visionary who was a pioneer of importing European auto brands to the United States, died in November. He was 94. In a 2004 Automotive News interview, Qvale estimated that he had sold more than a million cars — as a dealer, distributor and importer — during 55 years in the car business to that point.
Qvale Automotive Group includes numerous dealerships from California to Florida. As an entrepreneur, Kjell Qvale (shel kah-VAH'-lee) was willing to invest with his head but also with his heart. Sometimes things worked out brilliantly; other times they failed disastrously. But he waved off the failures. "I don't worry about the mistakes I made," Qvale said in 2004. "I've done more right than wrong. I'm an eternal optimist who doesn't mind taking a chance — although that can be deadly."
Qvale's family emigrated from Norway in 1929, arriving in Seattle. After World War II, Qvale considered becoming the regional distributor for Jeep and for some British motorcycle brands before seeing an
MG-TC roadster while standing on a street corner in New Orleans. He soon fell hard for the business of importing foreign cars. He began bringing in any car that looked like it had half a chance.
Qvale scored a huge hit when he snapped up the Northwest U.S. regional distributorship for Volkswagen in 1953. He later snagged the regional rights for Porsche and Audi. At its peak, his San Francisco-based British Motor Car Distributors Ltd. was the distributor to more than 100 dealerships, selling 10 brands of German and British cars and wholesaling 2,000 VW Beetles a month.
Brown, who died in February at age 96, was the chief designer of the Edsel, the famous 1950s flop that cost many a Ford executive his career, but his story didn't end there. Ford launched the Edsel with great fanfare in the fall of 1957, but it died just three years later after becoming the butt of many jokes. But Brown was considered such a brilliant stylist that the company shifted him to Ford of Britain until things cooled down in Dearborn. He rebounded spectacularly in the United Kingdom, drawing such classics as the original Ford Cortina and the Consul.
Brown, who retired from Ford in 1979, got the plum assignment to head the Edsel design team after impressing his bosses with a motor show fantasy, the Lincoln Futura concept that later would become TV's Batmobile.
Alfred Warren Jr.
As General Motors vice president of industrial relations, Warren negotiated labor contracts between GM and the UAW in 1982, 1984, 1987 and 1990. He died in October at age 87.
Warren began his GM career in 1955 as a teacher and conference leader at the General Motors Institute in Flint, Mich. In the 1960s and 1970s, he managed several GM plants, and in 1977 he became the Fisher Body Division's general director of personnel. Warren became the industrial relations vice president in 1980. He later helped develop the Saturn concept, a new model for management and labor
McCall, a longtime Houston auto dealer and one of the founders of Group 1 Automotive, died in October. He was 78.
McCall became a dealer in 1970 when he opened Houston's first single-line Toyota store. In 1989 he became one of the first Lexus dealers. Sterling McCall Toyota and Sterling McCall Lexus are now part of Group 1. McCall retired from Group 1 in 2006. This year he backed Tesla Motors' unsuccessful bid to carve out an exemption to Texas' franchise law so it could sell cars directly to consumers.
Wells, a leader in the 1999 auto dealer revolt against factory-owned stores, died in January at age 81. At the 1999 National Automobile Dealers Association convention, Wells was a newly elected first vice chairman, unofficially the next year's chairman. He was also the owner of Wells Chevrolet-Buick-Pontiac-Oldsmobile-GMC and Wells Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep in Whiteville, N.C.
Wells planned to spend his apprentice year as a voice for small and rural dealers. Then GM announced it planned to buy out some dealers to form a factory-owned network, GM Retail Holdings. Dealers felt betrayed. NADA leaders shifted lobbying into overdrive. Within 12 months, 22 additional state legislatures required that all auto sales be made by franchised new-car dealers, bringing the restricted-sales law total to 48 states. Wells was the incoming chairman at the 2000 NADA convention, when GM CEO Jack Smith appeared to say he was scrapping the automaker's factory-store program.
Longtime Connecticut auto dealer Malcolm Pray, known for his focus on customer service and philanthropy and his classic car collection, died in August at age 84. Over the years, Pray's dealerships sold Porsche, Audi, Saab, Infiniti, Nissan and Mitsubishi vehicles in the Greenwich, Conn., area.
Pray gave large amounts of time and money to numerous local organizations and had a collection of more than 20 antique and classic cars.