Isn't it ironic that the better a product development chief is at keeping engineering teams focused on delivering excellent products, the more responsibilities he or she is given that take attention away from that task?
With automakers facing financial pressure on many fronts — Wall Street, trade and tariff issues, slowing sales, intense competition — the product development chief's job has never been more important.
And that's why it is time for the role to be re-examined at GM, Ford and maybe elsewhere.
GM's announcement of planned cost cuts last month didn't mention product development. But trust me, Reuss and his counterparts at Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and elsewhere are feeling the heat.
They know that every product from this day forward has to be a home run right out of the box. The drain on resources to fund self-driving vehicles and electrification means that every vehicle in every major automaker's lineup has to pay its own way — make money — or it won't live.
There can't be any more product development failures such as Ford's PowerShift transmissions or safe base hits such as GM's retooled Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, which have been panned by critics despite being new from the wheels up. Or the redesigned Chevy Camaro, which has been getting trounced by the Ford Mustang. (Why didn't someone at GM raise their hand and say, "I can't see out of the rear of this damn thing?") Or the Cadillac XT4, a mess of a small crossover that is not even class-competitive.
For FCA to kill the Dodge Dart after just four years and the Chrysler 200 after just three was a multibillion-dollar boondoggle that shouldn't have happened. Sure, car sales are tough now, but it didn't help that the Dart and 200 suffered from design and drivetrain problems that made the cars nearly unsalable.