Retired auto executive Dick Brown played key roles in the U.S. launches of three automakers: Mazda, DeLorean Motor Co. and Daihatsu.
"He made critical decisions based on ethics and principle," his daughter Colleen Belchere said. And "Mazda was his baby. He loved Mazda."
Brown, who died Jan. 6 in La Quinta, Calif., at age 81, joined Japanese automaker Mazda in 1970 to head the company's U.S. headquarters before Mazda Motor of America was formed a year later. Under his leadership as vice president and general manager, the company became the fourth-largest auto importer in the U.S.
"Everyone at Mazda was saddened to learn of Dick Brown's passing," Mazda North American Operations said in a statement. "As a key member of the leadership during our early years, Dick was instrumental in forming the foundation of what has made the company who we are today."
After Brown left Mazda, he owned an auto dealership for two years before selling it in 1977 to focus on DeLorean.
Brown "was vital to securing early financing through the 340-plus DeLorean dealers in the USA," said Stephen Wynne, CEO of a DeLorean service and parts business formed in the years after the company's bankruptcy under John DeLorean in 1982. "Without his efforts, and those of the people he recruited, there is no question that the DeLorean project would not have even made it off the ground."
Brown left as president of DeLorean Motor Cars of America in 1982, just as the company was crumbling.
Three years later, he joined Japanese automaker Daihatsu, working with a six-man team to launch Daihatsu America. Brown was executive vice president and COO when the company was founded in July 1986 as a subsidiary of Daihatsu Motor Co.
Daihatsu America pulled out of the U.S. in 1992.
Brown, CEO at the time, said the pullout was triggered by "a broad variety of adverse circumstances," including annual sales falling below 10,000, stiffening competition and the cost of complying with U.S. safety and environmental rules.
Brown told Automotive News in 1993 that Japanese automakers "got greedy, tried to drive profit and satisfy their shareholders. But in turn, it shattered their image here. What they did was the exact opposite strategy of what got them into the market."