Richard Lannen, former executive director of GM's Service Technology Group and North American Service Operations, died of cancer on June 16. He was 76.
At General Motors, Lannen oversaw service functions as they relate to training dealership technicians, the development of diagnostics, customer relations, service equipment and policy and procedures.
He began his auto career as a teen in 1954 as a dealership service technician. He worked in dealerships for five years.
In the 1960s, Lannen owned a hot rod shop, specializing in drag racers. He joined GM in 1960 as a materials inspector, overseeing dealer warranty claims in Chevrolet's Buffalo, N.Y., zone.
Over 28 years he held various Chevy service and sales zone and regional manager jobs.
Lannen once said in an interview with Automotive News that during most of that time diagnosing a vehicle service problem was a fairly straightforward matter. "You could listen to the car and tell what was wrong," he said. "You could adjust things like the carburetor and the ignition systems. It was relatively simple, and there was very little guessing."
But in the early 1980s vehicles became more sophisticated, making it more complicated to identify a repair issue.
GM started installing computer-controlled devices in its cars that let technicians read trouble codes after drivers saw a "check engine" light on the instrument panel. This was followed by more sophisticated control modules that allowed technicians to have more diagnostic abilities.
Lannen became critical of GM's fragmented service operations. Because of the increasing complexity of vehicle repairs, it made sense to put service under one organization, called the Service Technology Group. Lannen left his job as Chevy division's assistant general sales manager in 1988 to run the new entity.
"I said we should get our act together and get ahead of this thing," he said. "I didn't realize that being the critic, I'd get the job."
Lannen retired from GM in December 1998, but continued to work for the company as a consultant until March 1999.
Arrangements: Friends may visit at Lynch & Sons Funeral Home, 1368 N. Crooks Road, Clawson, Mich., on Monday, June 24, 2-8pm.
A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at Holy Name Church, 630 Harmon St., Birmingham, Mich., on Tuesday, June 25, at 10 a.m. Friends may visit at church beginning at 9:30 a.m.
Immediately following Mass there will be a luncheon from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Birmingham Country Club, 1750 Saxon Drive, Birmingham.
Memorials appreciated to Angela Hospice, 14100 Newburgh Rd., Livonia, Mich., 48154.