NADA's new chief economist returns to his roots

Detroit's cold winter temperatures don't bother Steven Szakaly.

Szakaly grew up in Motown. He has returned to walk the auto show floor in his new role as the National Automobile Dealers Association's chief economist. He replaced Paul Taylor, who retired last spring.

If there's one thing Szakaly loves about the Detroit auto show, besides being back in the D, is being back in the auto industry.

"It's great," he said on the show floor. "It feels like I never left."

In Szakaly's mind, he never really left the industry. He just got sidetracked.

The 36-year-old was born and raised in the Detroit suburb of Trenton. He earned his undergraduate degree at Wayne State University in Detroit and an MBA from University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

In 2000 Szakaly began a four-year stint at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He launched his auto industry career in 2004 when he joined the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Szakaly consulted for General Motors from 2007 to 2010, then joined Cliffs Natural Resources in Cleveland, an international mining and natural resources company. Szakaly said in his mind, he was still in the auto industry, joking that some of Cliffs' products are used in auto parts.

"So technically I never really left," he said.

After walking the floor of the auto show, Szakaly said, "It feels like the industry is back."

You can reach Jamie LaReau at jlareau@crain.com -- Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jlareauan

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