A legion of young, capable executives are climbing their way toward the top, but only a few will reach the summit
General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, who turns 74 this month, has generated news for us since our first issue. He should be long retired when we turn 20 in 2016 but, given his legendary enthusiasm and staying power, that is by no means a sure thing.
Other industry leaders will have butted up against their contract requirements to step aside at age 65. They include BMW Chairman Helmut Panke; Jean-Martin Folz, CEO of PSA/Peugeot-Citroen; Jim Padilla, chief operating officer of Ford Motor; and Bentley Chairman Franz-Josef Paefgen. All are 59.
Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, chairman of Fiat group, is 58, as is Volkswagen group Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder this month. Lewis Booth of Ford Europe is 57. Claude Satinet, who led the revival at Citroen, is 61. Ulrich Bez, the man who engineered Aston Martin’s renaissance, is 62.
The big challenge for the people who will replace them is keeping their companies competitive.
“The CEO of the future will have to have a more international outlook and not be subject to narrow, national interests, as can happen in Germany and France. That can’t go on,” says Garel Rhys, who retired as professor of motor industry economics at Cardiff Business School in Wales at the end of 2005. “Investments must be made where it’s best for the company, not the country.”
Rhys adds, “[The CEO] will realize there’s nowhere for the inefficient to hide. The market – in other words, the consumer – will decide who wins and loses.”
New blood at BMW, PSA
So who are the 40-somethings likely to be making headlines in ANE in 2016?
At BMW, one name always crops up when insiders speculate about a successor to Panke: Stefan Krause, BMW’s 43-year-old chief financial officer. Other contenders are Michael Ganal, 51, the BMW board member in charge of sales and marketing, and Norbert Reithofer, 49, the carmaker’s board member responsible for production. Mario Theissen, 53-year-old head of the group’s motor sports programs, also is mentioned as a long shot.
The Peugeot family, which controls 40 percent of PSA’s voting shares, will determine who replaces Folz. Since the French auto group’s creation in 1966, the family has tended to award the top job to an outsider. But if the family does look at insiders,
50-year-old Gilles Michel, executive vice president in charge of platforms, engineering and purchasing, is considered a strong candidate.
Among PSA’s other top managers, Peugeot CEO Frederic Saint-Geours; Jean-Marc Nicolle, head of group strategy and product; Yann Delabriere, head of finance; and Robert Peugeot, head of quality and innovation, may be too close to Folz in age to succeed him. Each is in his mid-to-late 50s.
Citroen CEO Claude Satinet, who has spent his career at the company, has just over three years to go before corporate bylaws require him to retire at 65.
Group sources point to Magda Salarich as a leading candidate to replace Satinet. The 49-year-old Spanish woman is managing director of Citroen in Spain and in charge of the brand’s exports.
His name still commands enormous respect, and curiosity, despite the fact that he quit the auto industry four years ago to join Linde, which produces industrial gases and materials-handling equipment.
His reputation for brilliance as a product guy was cemented over his
23 years at BMW, where he rose to the No. 2 position.
Passed over in 1999 for the BMW chairmanship, his second rejection for the No. 1 post, he decamped to Ford Motor to lead its Premier Automotive Group in London.
He bolted to Linde in 2002 amid indications that PAG was about to lose much of its independence from the Ford hierarchy.
Reitzle’s one drawback is his age. At 57 next month, he may be considered by headhunters to be too old to start again.
Stability at Renault
Renault’s management structure has stabilized following wholesale changes last year, when Carlos Ghosn replaced Louis Schweitzer as CEO.
Ghosn, who will be 52 next month, has surrounded himself with executives of roughly the same age. They include Patrick Pelata, 50, executive vice president of product and strategy, and Chief Financial Officer Thierry Moulonguet, 54. Both men distinguished themselves working with Ghosn on Nissan’s turnaround.
Given their ages and track record, the new Renault team seems unlikely to change much over the next 10 years.
The same can’t be said for Fiat, where management stability has been in short supply in recent years.
At Fiat, 53-year-old Sergio Marchionne has taken on the task of trying to turn around both Fiat group and Fiat Auto after firing Herbert Demel as the automaker’s CEO in February 2005. The job probably is too much for one man.
But when tough-guy Marchionne thinks Fiat Auto needs less direct control from him, 42-year-old Alfredo Altavilla likely will emerge as chief operating officer and CEO heir-apparent.
Altavilla is head of business development, and, as such, oversees the joint ventures that are emerging as part of Fiat Auto’s future.
Ford’s rising stars
At Ford, insiders insist the group still has plenty of top-caliber talent despite losses from defections and attrition in the past few years.
Rising star Mark Fields, 44, named last October to the new post of president of the Americas, is widely viewed as heir-apparent to Bill Ford’s title as corporate CEO.
In Europe, names that regularly crop up in discussions about Ford’s future include product engineer Joe Bakaj, who is 43; Land Rover Managing Director Matthew Taylor, 45; and sales and marketing specialist Steve Odell, 51. The chief financial officer of Ford of Europe and the Premier Automotive Group, David Smith, who turns 45 next month, also is mentioned as someone to watch.
At General Motors, sources say they are hard pressed to nominate the 40-somethings who will become tomorrow’s leaders, although the short-term plan has been laid out. Fritz Henderson, the 48-year-old former chairman of GM Europe, was called back to Detroit in December to become chief financial officer and a vice chairman alongside CEO Rick Wagoner.
That appears to make Henderson, a finance executive who has run GM’s operations in Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Europe, heir apparent to the 53-year-old Wagoner.
GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster, 51, also could figure prominently in GM’s future plans.
Other GM rising stars who could make news include 46-year-old Jonathan Browning, GM Europe’s vice president of sales, marketing and aftersales, and Eric Alstrom, 39, GM Europe’s vice president of purchasing and supply chain.
David Meline, GM Europe’s chief financial officer, is another one to watch. At 48, Meline already has the experience of being the chief financial officer at GM Daewoo Auto and Technology in Seoul when the company was first formed in October 2002.
At Volkswagen group, 45-year-old Wolfgang Bernhard, head of the core VW brand, is expected to succeed Pischetsrieder, who faces retirement in seven years.
But Bernhard may yet run afoul of colleagues and directors for being too aggressive and un-political, traits that stopped him from getting the top job at Mercedes-Benz in 2004.
If Bernhard gets in trouble, VW group sales and marketing chief Stefan Jacoby, who is 47, could win the top job. Also in the wings: 43-year-old Adrian Hallmark, dispatched by the company late last summer from Bentley to take over as head of VW of America.
On solid ground
At DaimlerChrysler, 52-year-old Dieter Zetsche, who replaced Jürgen Schrempp, 61, is young enough to still be boss on our 20th birthday – assuming, of course, that he’s as successful as D/C chairman as he was as head of the Chrysler group.
But who’s in line to come after him? Those mentioned include Chief Financial Officer Bodo Uebber, 46; group r&d chief Thomas Weber, 51; and Joe Eberhardt, 42, Chrysler’s marketing chief.
The group also will offer more top-level career opportunities for Americans than in the past, according to one senior D/C executive.
“Much has changed since the merger.
Being German won’t be an issue over the next 10 years,” he says.
If true, that would open greater opportunities for Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda, 51, and 47-year-old Eric Ridenour, Chrysler’s product development leader.
At Porsche, the modern-day company is so much the creation of Chairman Wendelin Wiedeking that it’s hard to imagine it being run by anyone else.
But at 53, he also has time on his side.
When the transfer comes, though, it would surprise few people if his successor turned out to be Michael Macht, at 42 the youngest member of Porsche’s board of management. The two speak the same professional language: manufacturing and logistics.
Luca Ciferri, James R. Crate, Jens Meiners, Sylviane de Saint-Seine, Jason Stein and Wim Oude Weernink contributed
History proves that.
Not many in the industry had heard of Carlos Ghosn when he joined Renault in 1996, the same year the publication was born. And no one could have foreseen the impact Ghosn, then 42, would have on Renault, Nissan and the entire industry.
Similarly, as Automotive News Europe’s launch was being planned in mid-1995, an executive who had spent his career in the glass and sugar industries switched to the auto industry.
Today, that outsider – Jean-Martin Folz – is
one of the auto industry’s most admired executives for his leadership of France’s PSA/Peugeot-Citroen.
On the other hand, several high-profile executives who seemed secure in their jobs were swept aside by their shareholders in the 1990s.
Among them were Jacques Nasser at Ford Motor, Paulo Cantarella at Fiat Auto and Wolfgang Reitzle at BMW. Today, none works in the auto industry.
And then there is former BMW CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder, the architect of the automaker’s failed merger with Britain’s Rover group. Who could have foreseen him winding up in his present job, chairman of Volkswagen group?
For every orderly management progression, there will be as many surprises.
You can reach Richard Feast at email@example.com.