WASHINGTON -- International automakers have a new top lobbyist in Washington: John Bozzella, an auto industry veteran who helped to marshal support for Chrysler’s government bailout before leaving the company in 2009.
Bozzella will start April 1 as CEO of the Association of Global Automakers, a coalition of 12 automakers including Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota.
The group is the main Washington lobbying force for Asia- and Europe-based automakers, particularly on issues -- such as import tariffs -- where they have divergent interests from the Detroit 3. In an interview, Bozzella said he wants to help give these companies a strong voice befitting of the money they have invested here and their vehicles’ popularity in the United States.
“They have an enormous economic footprint,” he said. “For me, this is an exciting opportunity to really provide them with a trade association leadership that is equal in its reach and influence to their market success.”
Bozzella comes to Global Automakers from an affiliate of Chrysler’s former owner, private-equity firm Cerberus. Before that he represented Chrysler in pushing for the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program and on the development of new corporate average fuel economy standards.
Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota North America and chairman of Global Automakers, said in a statement that Bozzella’s experience in auto policy made him a “natural choice.”
“We are confident he will successfully advance our members’ efforts to foster an open and competitive automotive marketplace that encourages investment, job growth, and innovation,” Lentz said.
Bozzella replaces the retiring Mike Stanton, a respected deal-maker who led Global Automakers for seven years.
Bozzella, who studied labor relations at Cornell University, started his career lobbying the New York state legislature on behalf of the United Federation of Teachers.
In 1990, at the tender age of 27, Bozzella became New York City’s legislative affairs director in Albany under then-Mayor David Dinkins.
He joined Ford Motor Co. in 1994, staying with the company for more than a decade in a number of public policy, communications and labor relations positions.
He jumped to DaimlerChrysler in 2005 as vice president of external affairs and public policy for the Americas, staying with the company through its ill-fated acquisition by Cerberus before joining Cerberus in 2009. But he had an itch to return to the auto industry.
“I’m a car guy,” Bozzella said. “I never quite got the motor oil all the way out of my veins.”