Nominate your 2015 Rising Star

PONZ PANDIKUTHIRA

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If you are actually considering a choice between working for a shampoo company or a car company, this is not the industry for you.

Q: What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?

A: I was always an obsessed car fan as a little kid and the obsession continued to the point where I wanted to engineer cars for a living. When I was 16, I read Lee Iacocca's autobiography and decided that I would, one day, work for Chrysler. Nine years later, I began working as a resident engineer at Dodge Truck Manufacturing.

Q: GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?

A: Surrounding myself with great people both professionally and personally.

Q: BIGGEST FAILURE AND WHAT IT TAUGHT YOU?

A: Not being able to convince top management to introduce the export version of the Chrysler 300C Touring wagon in the U.S. market.

Q: WHAT ABOUT THE AUTO INDUSTRY SURPRISED YOU?

A: The speed at which successful auto companies can go from making billions in profit to facing financial peril.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT CHALLENGE AT WORK?

A: Deciding on how to position and price Kia vehicles, which have a design, quality and technical execution that exceed the current perception of the brand.

Q: WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?

A: Hire the best talent. As a priority, spend the time, money and effort on finding the right people for the right jobs.

Q: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A PERSON CONSIDERING A CAREER IN THE AUTO INDUSTRY?

A: Pursue a career in the industry only if you have a passion for the product. If you are actually considering a choice between working for a shampoo company or a car company, this is not the industry for you.

Q: IF YOU WERE CEO OF A COMPANY WHAT WOULD YOU DO FIRST?

A: Identify the top talent within the organization as well as within the industry and put them in leadership roles. Provide them with the vision, empowerment and incentives to achieve objectives exceeding even their own expectations.

Q: WHAT JOB DO YOU REALLY WANT TO HAVE IN THE FUTURE?

A: To be the CEO of an automaker.

Q: WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?

A: I love to drive. Fast, long drives on the unlimited sections of the autobahn are the most relaxing. Snowboarding, yoga and spending time with friends and family also work very well. I recently tried paragliding and it has high potential to become a relaxing hobby.

Q: FIRST CAR?

A: 1987 Toyota Supra Turbo.

Q: CURRENT CARS?

A: Kia Sorento and Soul.

PROFILE
NAME: Ponz M. Pandikuthira
TITLE: General manager, Europe product management
COMPANY: Kia Europe
LOCATION: Frankfurt
AGE: 39
FAMILY: Wife, Reema
BORN: Bangalore, India
NATIONALITY: United States
LANGUAGES: English, basic German, 3 Indian languages
EDUCATION: Global Executive MBA, INSEAD; M.S. Automotive Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA; B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Iowa State University, USA; B.A. Physics, Coe College, USA

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
JUNE 2009 to present: General manager, Europe product management, Kia Europe
2008-2009: Head of product management, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge; Europe, Middle East and Africa
2006-2008: Assistant to executive VP & CEO, global sales & marketing, DaimlerChrysler
2005-2006: Brand manager, Chrysler Town and Country minivan, DaimlerChrysler
2001-2004: Product manager, Chrysler 300C & Chrysler Crossfire for all export markets, DaimlerChrysler
1999-2001: Product engineer, large car platform, DaimlerChrysler
1996-1999: Product and process engineer supporting Dodge truck manufacturing, Chrysler


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