Former Valeo CEO Noel Goutard didn't get his man.
In his new autobiography, L'Outsider, Goutard describes his failed attempt in 1999 to lure Carlos Ghosn to Valeo to succeed him.
Goutard writes about Ghosn, who has become one of the industry's stars, plus his dealings past and present with auto sector power brokers such as J. Ignacio Lopez, Ferdinand Piech, Paolo Cantarella, as well as his relationships with suppliers and manufacturers.
Goutard's recollections span a career that started in 1954 at a commodity broker in New York and ended at Valeo's helm.
Goutard's revelation about his attempt to hire Ghosn came in September, about the same time that Ford Motor Co. CEO Bill Ford said his company had approached Ghosn about a job.
On his efforts to lure Ghosn, Goutard writes, "I could see Carlos as Valeo's next chairman. I like his methods -- detailed planning, lightning implementation, focus on the most critical issues, staff motivation."
But his attempt to get him to leave Renault failed.
While Goutard was trying to hire him, Ghosn was given a career-changing offer by then Renault SA CEO Louis Schweitzer: the challenge to turn around Nissan Motor Co. Six years later, Ghosn is CEO of both Nissan and Renault.
Goutard credits Lopez, the legendary and controversial former purchasing manager at General Motors and Volkswagen AG with helping Valeo grow.
Lopez gave the French supplier a chance to broaden its client portfolio. This helped make Valeo more international and less dependent on French carmakers.
Valeo undercut GM's and VW's traditional suppliers by as much as 30 percent, Goutard says. Lopez gave Valeo big contracts "to prod (GM's European brands) Vauxhall's and Opel's long-standing suppliers into more productivity."
"Lopez's pitiless terrorism against suppliers left an indelible mark on the car industry," Goutard says.
Goutard was awed by former Volkswagen group CEO Piech's technical expertise and recalls how the gifted engineer did his shopping at Valeo as if he were "in a supermarket."
"I admire Piech's ability to look at a list of parts or equipment and spot any inconsistency there might be between prices and technical characteristics."
At the other end of the spectrum, Goutard writes about his surprise when former Fiat Auto CEO Cantarella called him to ask Valeo to change the design of the lighting for the Fiat Stilo -- two weeks before production began. Goutard writes that he felt that Cantarella was the victim of "strategic chaos."
You may e-mail Sylviane de Saint-Seine at [email protected]