Peter Grady has a list of things to do when he retires at the end of the month as Fiat Chrysler head of network development.
But not on the list: working for another automaker.
"First, I'm going to do what every good retiree does: I'm going to drive to Florida and sit on a beach for a couple weeks," Grady, 55, said this month at a dealer event in suburban Philadelphia. "I can't remember [my last vacation]. It's been a couple years. I was due."
Grady surprised retailers when he announced at a dealer council meeting in December that he would retire from FCA at the end of March. The announcement drew an emotional standing ovation for Grady, people in the room said.
Quick-witted and affable, Grady has had good relations with most -- although not all -- of the automaker's dealers. He largely steered the company away from the high-profile fights over dealership improvement programs endured by his Detroit rivals.
But then, dealers probably found it easier to be forgiving amid five consecutive years of monthly year-over-year sales gains.
Grady started in 1984 as a district sales manager for the now-defunct American Motors Corp. and stayed on the dealer side throughout his career. He has been vice president of dealer network development since 2009, including a tumultuous period during Chrysler's bankruptcy when the company rejected 789 of its U.S. dealerships.
Despite the pain of those days, Grady said FCA's dealer network is now stable, profitable and popular with consumers.
"My only regret over the last five and a half years is that we still haven't cracked the code on customer experience. That's the thing that I regret," Grady said.
In November 2013, Grady took over as the U.S. head of FCA's Maserati luxury brand, tasked with growing sales and expanding the brand's small North American dealer network. Though he said it was personally rewarding, the job added substantial amounts of travel and stress, taking him away from his family, Grady said.
When he returns from an extended vacation, Grady said he plans to volunteer as a business mentor to socially responsible startups, such as those employing the homeless, in the Detroit area. He also plans to help a friend who has opened a microbrewery in Colorado to grow his business.
Grady said he doesn't have another job lined up, but given his career, "if it's in the car business, it won't be too surprising. But it won't be with another OEM. I work with the best OEM that there is now. Why would I go somewhere else?"