It's easy to characterize Bob Rewey as the last of the Old Guard in Ford's sales and marketing operations.
In a 38-year career at Ford, Rewey worked his way to the top the old-fashioned way: He had his ticket punched in a variety of jobs at both Ford Division and the old Lincoln-Mercury Division, and he worked shoulder to shoulder with the troops he later commanded.
But Rewey has been more than that. He also has been an agent of change.
Most recently, he was a good and loyal soldier who was part of Ford CEO Jacques Nasser's efforts to revamp the sales and marketing operations, altering the structure, the personnel and the nature of the jobs. That made Rewey unpopular with some veteran Ford employees whose careers were upended.
In addition, Rewey helped shape the brand strategy for marketing an array of domestic and international brands around the world.
He also was instrumental in developing the May 1997 Ford Retail Network strategy of consolidating dealerships in metropolitan areas under joint ventures in which Ford was an investor. The strategy failed after enraging many Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers and prompting a new round of legislation that toughened the prohibition of factory stores in many states.
Rewey also tried a number of Internet-related ventures that dealers didn't like, such as the online used-car dealership in Texas. And then there was the experimental Ford-backed concierge service, which helped consumers do many little chores, such as shopping for the right vehicle, even if it wasn't a Ford product.
Then, a year ago, came the Ford Blue Oval and Lincoln Premier Experience dealership certification programs. Those programs created two tiers of dealers, with certified dealers receiving fat per-vehicle bonuses. To some dealers, Bob Rewey had become the troll under the bridge.
But before the era of frenetic innovation, Bob Rewey was involved in several significant changes.
Rewey was a prime mover in the growth of retail leasing in the early 1990s, when it was needed to pull the industry out of a sales slump worsened by steep retail price hikes and sticker shock among consumers.
And it was under Rewey's sales leadership that Ford became dominant in light trucks and now routinely places four or five vehicles among the 10 best-selling models.
He has been a mentor who helped others develop into top-flight executives, including some who have since left Ford.
Outside the office, Rewey is an unheralded but generous supporter of important charities, such as the Detroit Police Athletic League, which helps inner city youth.
This is the changing of the guard, but there's a lot the newcomers can learn from Bob Rewey.