Tavares, Palmer, Gales ready to shine in new CEO roles

A year ago Carlos Tavares was unemployed, Andy Palmer was Nissan’s global head of planning and Jean-Marc Gales was leading supplier group CLEPA. The three former auto brand No. 2s will have the spotlight all to themselves at the Paris auto show this week.

Tavares, 56, rose as high a second-in-command to Carlos Ghosn at Renault before getting restless. He left Renault in summer 2013 and officially started as PSA/Peugeot-Citroen CEO on March 31, succeeding Philippe Varin. While he was very visible and accessible during the Geneva auto show in early March, but Paris is Tavares’ first major European auto show as The Man.

His Peugeot, Citroen and DS brands share the same hall as Ghosn’s Renault, Dacia and Nissan, potentially creating an interesting Carlos vs. Carlos plotline at this year’s event.

Palmer, 51, was considered by many to be Ghosn’s No. 2 at Nissan after the British executive was promoted to chief planning officer in November 2013. Instead of remaining a rung below the boss, Palmer found a new ladder. He is now CEO at Aston Martin.

Gales, 52, climbed to No. 2 at PSA in mid-2009 and served as Varin’s top lieutenant until early 2012. That’s when he left to run European supplier lobby group CLEPA. Gales, who also has held high-level jobs as BMW, Mercedes, Opel, finally has his chance to be No. 1 as CEO of Lotus.

The three 50-something bosses will never forget this week. Each man, however, will have to work harder than ever before because PSA, Aston Martin and Lotus have big challenges to overcome.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at dbolduc@autonews.com -- Follow Douglas A. on Twitter: BolducANE2014