Name: Dan Nicholson.
Title: GM Powertrain Europe executive director of product engineering.
Languages: English, German.
Family: Wife Robin; daughter Kelsea, 18; son Kevin, 16.
Countries lived in: US, China, Germany.
Education: Master of Business Administration from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, USA; masters degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA; bachelors degree in mechanical engineering from Kettering University (formerly the GM Institute), Flint, Michigan, USA.
What was your first car?
At 16, I drove my grandmothers 1970 Oldsmobile Delta and at 18 I bought a 1983 Buick Skylark Sport.
Whats in your garage now?
An Opel Insignia 2.0 turbo gasoline with manual transmission.
If you could work in another industry, what would it be?
I love the auto industry. I have had chances to leave, and never have. I am confident in my own skin, and I cannot imagine doing anything else. But if there were no auto industry it would be hi-tech Silicon Valley. It has the same exciting and collaborative dynamic of bringing a complicated product to market.
What is your greatest personal achievement to date?
Having a family and seeing my children grow up.
What are your career highlights?
Helping to bring to production a US V-6 engine that would run on Chinese oil and fuel, and leading the teams that reduced the need for precious metals in catalytic converters.
How do you relax?
By doing something physical, such as really pushing myself while exercising on a stationary bike or treadmill. I also enjoy fine dining with my wife and family, especially outdoors and I love travel.
What kind of books do you read?
Business books. Not the trendy jargon stuff, more the sort of academic texts on how to lead people better and make teams work better.
What is the first thing you do when you come home from work?
Kiss my wife and eat dinner -- though its often warmed up in the microwave because my family got tired of waiting for me.
I dont consider myself a workaholic but Im often late home.
But the weekends are dedicated to family time.
If you could meet any figure from history, who would it be?
Legendary GM President Alfred P. Sloan, who built GM into the worlds No. 1 automaker.
I would like to study first hand how he could balance a decentralized organisation with centralized control because he still has lessons for us today.
What are you good at outside your profession?
I studied the piano for 10 years and am fairly accomplished -- mainly classical but also jazz and pop. And I still think of myself as a good rugby player. I played on the wing for Stanford University and was voted the player who best captured the spirit of the game.
I have fond memories of scoring my first try and drinking beer out of a rugby boot.
What are your strongest personality traits?
I try to be open and very straightforward in the way I work with others. I am direct but in a polite way.
What are your strongest attributes as a team leader?
I really value teamwork and trying to bring different skills together.
When are you not at your best?
When other people have more information than I do. If a colleague knows something I do not, I fret and feel at a disadvantage.
What was the most fun you had last year?
A vacation to Egypt. Along with visiting the tourist parts, we went to remote and dusty oases.
What is your most treasured possession?
Im not a big possessions guy, but if there was a fire I would grab family albums and my diplomas, which are only bits of paper but they represent my learning and experience.
Where would you really like to live?
I love where I am now in Frankfurt. Its cosmopolitan yet close to nature. Palo Alto, California, is perfect in many ways, but I dont see myself in one place. That would be too constricting, I need to move around.