Tom Webb wasn't sure he was going to last 44 days in the automotive industry, let alone nearly 44 years.
Webb, 67, the chief economist at Cox Automotive's Manheim auction group, will retire Friday, June 30, after a four-decade career that began in 1973, when he was a data analyst with the National Automobile Dealers Association.
He joined Oct. 1 of that year, just five days before Egypt, Syria and other Arab nations launched an attack on Israel, triggering the Yom Kippur War. The U.S. supported Israel in the conflict, leading to an oil embargo by Arab members of OPEC that sent oil prices skyrocketing until the embargo's end in March 1974.
The result for the U.S. auto industry was disastrous, as new-vehicle sales collapsed and American automakers were forced to catch up to foreign companies that already were known for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and quickly were gaining market share.
Webb, while also pursuing a master's degree in economics at Georgetown University, was crunching numbers for NADA during the crisis. It didn't look good for the industry — or for him, he said.
"New-vehicle sales just went into the tank," Webb said. "At that point, those came out every 10 days. So I'm following it as an analyst, and I'm thinking, 'I ain't going to be employed here very much longer.'"
It turns out that he would stay there for another 26 years, ultimately becoming NADA's chief economist in 1986 and establishing himself as one of the most respected names in the auto-economics sphere. Following a brief stint at PricewaterhouseCoopers, he took on the same role at Manheim, where he'll finish his four-decade career.