Like athletes at the highest levels of sport, auto executives compete against the very best. It is our pleasure each summer to honor the performers who are at the very top of their games. In this issue, we proudly present the third annual Eurostars - 12 high-achieving managers who have impressed the most in their respective fields over the past year. Ingenuity, determination, charisma - whatever it takes, these 12 have it. They are models for the entire industry.
Along with Louis Schweitzer of Renault, Jean-Martin Folz is also disproving an old criticism about French auto bosses: that they have no feel for cars and little sense of the auto industry.
When hired by PSA in 1996, Folz looked like just another well-connected French business titan - indistinguishable from the former high-level government bureaucrats and small circle of elite-educated CEOs-in-training who generally take over big French companies.
He appeared to have not a drop of gasoline in his veins. He came from the sugar refining industry!
But Folz (and Schweitzer, last year's Eurostar CEO) is a strong argument for the French way of choosing automotive leaders. He brought clear thinking to PSA. He ordered Peugeot and Citroen cars that share platforms to be built in the same plants. He reversed the strategy by which Peugeot and Citroen cars looked approximately the same on the outside, but had lots of different parts under the skin - the opposite of what everyone else does.
He gave more independence to Peugeot and Citroen's marketing and product planners, while pushing group-wide synergies.
Folz also allowed the group's brilliant development engineers to create appealing models - such as the Peugeot 206 and the Citroen Xsara Picasso.
And then there is the bottom line. Continuing an upward trend, PSA's market share in western Europe climbed from 11.5 percent in January-June 1999 to 12.8 percent in the first six months of this year. Both the Peugeot and Citroen brands' market shares have grown in that time - Peugeot's from 6.9 percent to 7.7 percent, and Citroen's from 4.6 percent to 5.2 percent.
Profits have grown, too. PSA reported a 50 percent jump in net profits to E729 million last year, helped by a 12 percent increase in sales to E37.8 billion.
Operating profits jumped 53 percent to E1.67 billion.
Hardly anyone seems to believe that a company PSA's size can survive on its own. But Folz not only believes it - he is proving it.
Walter de' Silva
Director of design, Seat
Walter de' Silva has Alfa Romeo in his heart and Seat in his hands. The 49-year-old designer changed Alfa for the better and is now doing the same for Seat.
Starting in 1986, de' Silva revived the image of moribund Alfa Romeo, making it one of the fastest growing brands in western Europe. At Alfa, he oversaw a complete renewal of its product range: 145-146, 156 sedan and Sportwagon, 166 - and the first step of the next generation, the 147 that replaces the 145-146 this autumn.
In late 1998 VW group boss Ferdinand Pi'ch hired the Italian designer for an even tougher challenge: to reposition Seat as a competitor to Alfa Romeo.
De' Silva's first output at Seat was the stunning Salsa concept car that dominated the Geneva auto show in March. His Seat production-car influence is expected to start with the restyled Arosa mini, which will make its debut at the Paris auto show in September. After seeing the de' Silva-designed Alfa Sportwagon at Geneva this year, Seat abandoned its forthcoming Toledo station wagon, giving de' Silva the complete freedom to make something better.
Product development head
Mercedes-Benz brand board member responsible for development, DaimlerChrysler AG
Just because you have a large budget to play with doesn't mean that developing luxury cars is easy. Satisfying top-level customer expectations is a priority, but there are strict cost disciplines to consider. Hans-Joachim Schopf knows how to do both.
With the new Mercedes-Benz C-class, for example, there was a fierce fight to reduce develop-ment and production costs significantly - sources say 30 percent compared with the previous-generation model - while at the same time improving the product.
High-tech features previously available only on high-end Mercedes have been installed in the C-class.
Some Mercedes engineers complain that their 58-year-old boss is obsessed by cost control. But Schopf believes he can stay within the limits of his budget, and still improve the product.
The A- and the E-class face-lifts, the all-new C-class Sports Coupe and the highly successful S-class are examples. And there are more to come.
Director of corporate information and international coordination, Renault SA
Patrick Bessy has guided Renault's public image through one of the most delicate periods in its history following the March 1999 purchase of a controlling 35 percent stake in Nissan.
Coordinating the communications strategies of any two global companies is hard enough - even when they're from the same country, and when everyone speaks the same language.
But Bessy and his departmental colleagues faced the seemingly impossible task of uniting French and Japanese corporate cultures, and coping with potentially disenfranchised Nissan employees who opposed the French takeover.
Compared with the turbulent Daimler-Benz/Chrysler deal, the Renault/Nissan partnership has seemed to be a picture of harmony and tranquility -even while the pair consolidate dealers, close plants, combine platforms and move headquarters. Bessy, Renault's top public relations executive, has been clear and consistent throughout.
Director, vehicle manufacturing, Fiat Auto SpA
For any plant manager, the introduction of new product is a stressful period: output drops, quality issues must be resolved, and every day new problems arise.
But Daniele Bandiera sees the phase-out, phase-in period not only as a challenge, but also as an opportunity.
As plant manager of Fiat Auto's Melfi plant, in 1994 Bandiera added the Lancia Ypsilon to the Fiat Punto production line without losing capacity. But Bandiera's greatest achievement remains the transition of the Punto MkI to the MkII.
In the last full year of the first Punto, 1998, total output was 568,590 units. In 1999, when the new Punto was added, annual output fell just 2.87 percent to 552,260 units. And the no-pain changeover took place in three different plants: Melfi, Termini Imerese and Mirafiori.
Bandiera's next challenge is how to add the new Alfa Romeo 147 to the Pomigliano d'Arco plant without disrupting the flow of the 156 sedan and Sportwagon production on the same line.
Chief financial officer
Board member, finance, BMW AG
Helmut Panke did what he had to this year. He put together an exit strategy for BMW and it worked.
The company's tough-minded chief financial officer drove the decision to unload Rover and unlock value at BMW.
Few in Munich understood as well as Panke the pressure BMW was under. Rover was hemorrhaging cash and depleting BMW resources. Panke took action, finding a solution that - while unpopular in Rover's UK homeland - got BMW back on track.
With no ready buyers for Rover, Panke painstakingly assembled the sale of most Rover car operations to British investment group Alchemy Partners. The deal was shaky at best and eventually collapsed. But it set in motion a chain of events that led to an agreement with hastily formed Phoenix Group. Meanwhile, Land Rover was sold to Ford.
Panke, who previously served as the company's top executive in North America, is the perfect example of a modern, pro-active CFO. There is a new spirit at BMW these days and Panke has had much to do with it.
Project leader for individual car
Project manager for Xsara Picasso, Automobiles Citroen
The Citroen Xsara Picasso faced a real struggle to make an impression in the hot new compact minivan segment. In addition, the Picasso was very late launching into a market created more than five years ago.
But Jean-Francois Poluzot's Picasso has been a pleasant surprise for Citroen. It is well-packaged and full of good ideas for the busy parent. Unlike the Opel/Vauxhall Zafira, the Xsara doesn't have seven seats - but Citroen says it doesn't need them. Sales figures seem to back up what Citroen says. Perhaps more than any competitor, the Picasso drives and grips the road like a sedan. And it has real character - something missing from much of the the minivan segment.
Senior vice president of purchasing, Renault SA
Jean-Baptiste Duzan has been a proponent of major change in the product development and supply chain models in the automotive industry.
Duzan has created a new benchmark for supplier relations with Renault's 'Optima' program. He has promoted the potential of build-to-order and the ability of e-business to contribute to faster development times in the automotive industry.
As head of the purchase and supply cross-company team set up by Renault and Nissan, Duzan is responsible for achieving $1.7 billion in purchasing savings across the French-Japanese group by 2002.
Duzan managed the disposal of a number of non-core subsidiaries at Renault in the 1980s before becoming project director for the Renault Safrane. He then worked on Renault's successful cost reduction effort as director of purchasing. He has been a member of the executive board at Renault since 1994.
Sales and marketing executive
Vice president of marketing and sales, Micro Compact Car GmbH
Klaus Fricke's mission when he joined Micro Compact Car in April 1999 was to rescue the troubled Smart city car brand. He had very little time. After a difficult launch in October 1998, MCC's first-quarter results in 1999 were so bad that DaimlerChrysler boss Jurgen Schrempp was fast losing patience with Smart.
The very last chance was to meet a revised sales target of 80,000 units by the end of 1999. Fricke used all the marketing, sales and distribution tools at his disposal. He relaunched Smart, changed the advertising strategy, adjusted the pricing and restructured the distribution network by integrating Smart into the D/C sales organization.
Smart found its niche. Sales will comfortably exceed the target of 100,000 units by the end of this year, and will continue to grow with new products such as the Smart roadster in the future.
Even more important is the fact that Fricke, 47, managed to embody the Smart brand with the values it always should have possessed. The little two-seater was brought back from the brink of failure and is now perceived as trendy, fashionable, clever and desirable.
Fricke previously held sales positions at Daimler-Benz and BMW, and was also managing director of German seat manufacturer Recaro.
Chief executive (division)
Executive vice president, Mercedes-Benz passenger cars and Smart, DaimlerChrysler AG
With the consistent success of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, and the Smart brand finally on track, Jurgen Hubbert runs the strongest business unit within DaimlerChrysler.
Mercedes-Benz models are more in demand than ever and Smart is finding a wider audience. The success is a sign of Hubbert's strategy: product life cycles are balanced, trend-setting niche products are being created, and visionary projects are being pursued.
Hubbert is also a proven crisis manager. He played a direct role in improving Smart sales and has attacked the Mercedes-Benz
A-class' profitability problems with an aggressive strategy.
When the next generation of the A-class came under scrutiny, the 62-year-old engineer presented the concept of a complete family of A-class derivatives to the DaimlerChrysler management board.
Rather than backing off on the segment, Hubbert fought for higher volumes and the expansion of the A-class range. He finally convinced even the most skeptical of his colleagues on the D/C board.
President and CEO, Magneti Marelli SpA
Magneti Marelli boss Domenico Bordone has one of the toughest jobs in the components business.
General Motors and Ford have spun off their components arms, Delphi and Visteon. But Fiat SpA has increased its stake in its supplier unit - Magneti Marelli - from 70 percent to 100 percent. Fiat says that will speed up the process of shifting Magneti Marelli from a basic supplier of parts to a provider of sophisticated systems and services.
Bordone wants to double the revenues of Magneti Marelli's on-board communications division, reduce the company's dependence on Fiat in suspension systems, and become a major player in the diesel electronic engine control unit business.
He is already well on his way, as shown by Magneti Marelli's strong financial performance. The company achieved the best results for the year through May 31, 2000, for shareholders in quoted car parts companies with a market capitalization of over $200 million, according Automotive News Europe's shareholder value index. Magneti Marelli's total shareholder return was 125.9 percent for the period.
Born in Turin in 1946, Bordone graduated in mechanical engineering from the Turin Polytechnic while he was working at Fiat's Grey Iron Foundry. Bordone became head of the foundry in 1983. He joined Magneti Marelli in October 1986.
Executive in an emerging market
President, Volkswagen Brazil
Herbert Demel has had one of the toughest and most unglamorous jobs in the Volkswagen group in the past three years. He has managed one of Volkswagen's biggest but most overlooked business units through economic crisis and a dramatic escalation of competition in its core Brazilian market.
Demel has been a vigorous advocate of a greater opening of South America's Mercosur markets. The beginning of a Brazilian economic recovery this year and new models and facilities, together with a refocusing on exports, has meant that Volkswagen's troubled Brazilian business now appears to have turned the corner.
The former CEO of Audi AG, multilingual, Austrian-born Demel has a doctorate in mechanical and automotive engineering.