The 2016 class of inductees into the Automotive Hall of Fame provides more than a way to recognize outstanding leadership and contributions to the global automotive industry.
This diverse quartet also serves as a reminder of the variety of energy needed to drive an enormous industry that has completely reshaped society over the past century and a quarter.
Two are familiar Hall of Fame prototypes: engineer and industrialist. Roy Lunn was the godfather of the original Ford GT40 that swept its class at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. Alan Mulally swept in from Boeing, mortgaged Ford Motor to the hilt and steered the automaker through the Great Recession without a federal bailout.
The other two inductees are less conventional choices. Bertha Benz, wife of automobile inventor Karl Benz, qualifies as an industrialist as the business-oriented half of the husband-wife team, largely capitalizing the Benz workshop while pushing Karl to build marketable products.
But she was also the automobile's original visionary. In 1888, she and her two teenage sons famously drove the Benz Patent-Motorwagen 104 kilometers (64 miles) to visit her mother in Pforzheim. The world's first family road trip transformed a rich man's gadget into a product ordinary people could use.
Ralph Nader also transformed the auto industry by forcing it to focus on safety. Nader's 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed and subsequent testimony before Congress led to the creation of what is now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. He is the face of the consumer advocacy that helped reshape public and industry attitudes about auto safety, ultimately leading to modern vehicles bristling with passive and active safety devices and a marketplace in which consumers seek out advanced safety technology.
What these newest Hall of Famers share is their devotion to building and sustaining the industry and making it fully serve its customers.