Jeff Walters has officially been in Subaru's top U.S. role only since April 1 when Tom Doll stepped down as CEO, but Walters' three decades of experience with the Japanese brand made it easier to move up.
Walters, 56, previously Subaru of America's senior vice president of sales, had come up through the brand's regional field team, holding a variety of roles with increasing responsibilities, and had also been a brand strategy manager in what is the company's largest single global market. Not only does his experience make him a steady hand at the helm as president and COO, but he is a known quantity to Subaru's network of 639 retailers across North America.
Walters spoke last month with Staff Reporter Larry P. Vellequette. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: You've been in your new role for about two months. What are your first impressions?
A: Well, I've been with Subaru of America for 31 years. So I got plenty of experience and most of what I've done has been growing up in this business on the sales side. So any questions you have about that area will give me warm fuzzy feelings; I feel pretty good about those. But there is a lot of new in my life, and that's been good. I'm really fortunate that I'm part of a really good team here at Subaru of America.
All the people that head up the various departments around here are pretty capable, and they've been very helpful to get me up to speed. I'm also obviously pretty fortunate that Tom [Doll] is still around. We've been fortunate because we have something that maybe a lot of other companies wouldn't have during a transition like this; that Tom has been here and I can chat him up almost every morning and talk to him a little bit about what my day is going to be like, and he'll say, 'Here, keep this in mind. This is what happened last time.' So that part's all been good.