Michael Stanton, longtime D.C. advocate for automakers, to retire in 2014
Michael Stanton, a longtime lobbyist and a driving force for automakers in public policy, will retire as president and CEO of the Association of Global Automakers in early 2014.
Stanton, 68, has represented automakers in Washington and state capitals across the country for more than 35 years, including the last seven at the association. The group, headquartered in Washington, represents the U.S. divisions of 13 foreign automakers, including Toyota, Honda and Hyundai.
Stanton has been a major leader in turning what was previously a confrontational relationship between automakers and the federal government into a more collaborative rapport.
He told Automotive News on Wednesday that automakers have learned how to effectively work with the government, and government has learned how to work with automakers. Stanton said the association's members have found success in tackling problems such as vehicle emissions head on, rather than blasting legislation that adversely affect their business.
"Once you acknowledge that it's a problem, then you begin to look at creative ways to mitigate the problem and eventually solve it," Stanton said. "It's the approach that you take that begins to set the tone for discussions that begins to accomplish things."
He's been widely recognized as a lead negotiator on behalf of automakers regarding fuel-economy rules. He spearheaded automakers' successful push for a single national CAFE program after the association unsuccessfully sued the state of California for adopting its own requirements. He said automakers are where they need to be right now in complying with the mandates.
"The companies are doing the things they think are necessary to be successful not just in the marketplace but also to be in compliance with requirements," Stanton said.
Stanton said he's also proud of the association's efforts on the issue of distracted driving. He said the association and its members were ahead of government requirements that disable and discourage the use of features while vehicles are in motion.
Stanton announced his plan to retirement on Tuesday, months before he leaves, to ease the association's transition to a new leader.
"After a wonderful and exciting career in the auto industry, capped by seven years at Global Automakers, I am looking forward to spending quality time with my family and pursuing my bucket list," Stanton said. "However, before I leave, there is still work to be done, and I want to ensure the transition for our members and my dedicated staff is a smooth one."
John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America and chairman of the association's board of directors, said in the statement that Stanton has laid a strong foundation for the next leader of the organization.
"Mike has done an impressive job invigorating Global Automakers, delivering growth, and developing a clear and progressive vision," Krafcik said. "I have enjoyed working with Mike in a period of great progress for the association and hope to find a new president and CEO who can continue to lead the organization on the path that has been set."
A committee of leaders from automakers represented by the association will choose Stanton's successor with the help of an executive search firm.
Looking at the future
For his successor, Stanton said the widespread implementation of safety features such as blind-spot alerts, forward collision systems and lane departure warning systems will become an important task.
"The issue of making the vehicles safer but also acting as a 'co-pilot' to act when the driver makes mistakes," Stanton said. "How does that get managed, get brought into the fleet?"
Stanton also said it will be important for the next leader of the association to work with government to facilitate vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology under development.
And of course, fuel economy rules will continue to be an important topic; the administration will take a second look at the latest requirements in a mid-term review in 2018.
Stanton also pledged to continue monitoring a key issue until he formally steps aside in several months: Right-to-repair laws. The laws under consideration at the state and federal level would require automakers to provide independent repair shops with the same diagnostic tools they provide franchised dealers.
"I'm going to get that done before I retire," Stanton said. "Put that down."
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