Chris Cortez, 51
Senior Vice President, Global Service and Parts, Chrysler Group
Education: B.S., marketing, Western Michigan University; M.B.A., Wayne State University
First automotive job: Management trainee at Chrysler Corp. in 1976
Most fun automotive job: "Mopar brand, right where I am right now. When I came in three years ago to this job, we decided that Mopar, which is such a passion-filled, fun brand, was kind of hanging there because it had been a muscle-car brand. We had to see, 'Could we invigorate and take our brand to these young tuners, these young kids who are really into their cars now?' And I think we've done that very successfully."
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "I think I'm really good at involving my people. At times, I think I haven't been as good at involving my peers. Sometimes you put your head down and start running, and I think building coalition and reaching out sideways has been not as strong in my talent. Because sometimes you get down the road, and you say, 'Oh, my gosh, I just found out there's something about his area that I'm tromping on, or that I could have leveraged and didn't because I didn't involve him.' It's usually not a plan; it's just a forget, but it's not good."
Career highlights (all with Chrysler)
- 2001-02 Vice president, sales and marketing operations
- 1998-2001 Vice president, fleet operations
- 1998 General manager, fleet operations
- 1996-98 Finance director, sales and marketing and minivan operations
- 1994-96 Controller, Mopar parts
- 1992-94 Manager, vehicle programming, sales and marketing and minivan operations
- 1989-92 Manager, business plans, corporate finance
- 1987-89 Manager, balance sheet forecast, corporate finance
- 1985-87 Supervisor, supplier economic analysis, procurement finance
- 1984-85 Program financial manager, large-car platform
- 1982-84 Specialist, user systems development
- 1976-81 Various positions, Mopar parts
Current challenge: "Bringing customers back to the dealerships for service."
On being successful: "When you're in a mature industry, you still need to be a change agent, and you need to be able to somehow see what you've got in your mind as a paradigm. There's so much that's just 'always been done that way.' And it's a constant battle, and the people who succeed the most are the ones who are able to break through.
"The second thing that I really believe strongly is that your ego gets in the way. As you're climbing up the ladder, you get a lot of ego stroking. Too much ego closes off input. I've said often: If I believed my brain was big enough to solve all the problems in my group, then I don't need input. But, unfortunately, mine's not.
"So, if I'm convinced that mine's not big enough, then I have to keep a free flow of input. I've tried to believe as the company promotes you, you don't promote yourself."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "If you're talking to younger women coming along - ignore the fact that you're a woman. We're getting to the point that we don't have to discuss the gender thing anymore. I appreciate the honors that have come my way. But I don't think it will help the young ones anymore to concentrate so much on gender because it makes for a chip on the shoulder."
What you do to relax: "We live on a lake, and I am a water person, and I garden a bit. On Saturday or Sunday afternoon, after that's done, you will find me floating on an air mattress in the middle of our bay with a good book and glass of red wine. That's my favorite thing.
"I kayak a bit. I'm a water type. Friday nights, we have four couples who go out on what we call the boat cruise. We go out and sit on a pontoon in the middle of the lake and eat munchies and drink wine. Anything to do with water is where I am."