Bill Hoglund, a retired executive and CFO of General Motors, and close confidant of former Chairman and CEO Jack Smith, died on Sunday, June 9, 2014, in Harbor Springs, Mich. He was 79.
The cause of death was complications from a blood clot, according to Dick Schiller, director of the Schiller Funeral Home in Harbor Springs, Mich.
Hoglund, who resigned from GM in 1994 as executive vice president for corporate affairs, also ran Pontiac, Saturn, the former Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac Group and the Automotive Components Group during a 36-year career with the automaker.
A tall, friendly, well regarded and independent executive, Hoglund revived Pontiac in the early 1980s and coined the brand's tag line, “We build excitement.”
He once used an office chair that had served as a red and gray bucket seat in the 1984 Pontiac Fiero Indy pace car. And Hoglund and his wife Bev often hosted parties for the automotive press in their suburban Detroit home that would last into the night.
“Mr. Hoglund commanded the respect of all who worked with him,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. “His legacy was that of a gifted leader known for his integrity, decency and advocacy for the customer. He will be deeply missed by the GM family.”
William Elis Hoglund was born on Aug. 22, 1934, in Stockholm and graduated from Princeton University in 1956 and the University of Michigan in 1958.
Following several summer assignments with GM, he joined the company in 1958 in the accounting department at the Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac division.
After holding various finance roles at the Pontiac division and GM treasurer's office in New York, Hoglund was named a GM vice president and general manager of Pontiac in 1980.
While comptroller of Pontiac in the early 1970s, Hoglund endeared himself to junior staff members at the division by regularly soliciting ideas and holding open meetings in the Pontiac cafeteria. The gatherings were dubbed "love-ins" by underlings.
He oversaw the transformation of Pontiac into a thriving GM division by improving labor-management relations, embracing teamwork on the plant floor, and halting the brand's longtime practice of producing lackluster clones of Chevrolet cars.
Hoglund championed one of GM's biggest hits and, later, biggest disappointments of the 1980s -- the Pontiac Fiero. The two-seat, mid-engined, sporty "commuter car" proved popular at first during a period of rising gasoline prices.
It was Hoglund who recommended that workers at a plant in Pontiac, Mich., where the car was to be assembled, name the car and they came up with Fiero -- "proud" in Italian, and "wild" or "fierce" in Spanish.
But GM eventually dropped the Fiero because of lackluster sales prompted, in part, by safety concerns and engine fires, mostly in 1984 models, as well as reliability and performance issues.
Hoglund was named group executive in charge of GM's central office operating staffs group in 1984.
Early Saturn boss
In February 1985, he was named president of GM's new Saturn Corp. subsidiary after the death of 54-year-old Joseph Sanchez, who had died in January, only two weeks after being named president of the new company.
A year later, Hoglund was named group executive in charge of the Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac Group.
In 1988, GM promoted him to executive vice president in charge of the Automotive Components Group, Power Products & Defense, Service Parts Operation, finance, and the corporate affairs and staff support group.