The Ten Worst Auto Executives Ever

Bailouts, bad products, and a total misunderstanding of the brands they ran. These ten terrible auto executives nearly ruined the auto industry as we know it.


10.) Wendelin Wiedeking

The Ten Worst Auto Executives Ever

Wiedeking is an engineer, and his business ideas turned Porsche into another of Volkswagen's toys. Auto Guy:

Because the line between super freaking brilliant and criminal mastermind has never been thinner. This guy avoided a criminal trial this week, making him the luckiest man alive. Even so, he cost Porsche their quasi-independence.

Suggested By: Auto Guy, Photo Credit: AP Images


9.) Jacques Nasser

The Ten Worst Auto Executives Ever

Under his watch, Ford bought Volvo and Land Rover, put Firestone tires on Explorers and spent billions on turning the world's most profitable car company into a consumer-products and services venture. Idiot.

Suggested By: Auto Guy, Photo Credit: AP Images


8.) Rick Wagoner

The Ten Worst Auto Executives Ever

Rick wasn't a quick thinker during his time at GM. Auto Guy:

He was doing all of the right things for General Motors, and be loved by most everybody that worked with him. Just one thing: he was doing those things at about one third the required speed, and that let GM run out of cash at exactly the wrong time. While no one foresaw the great market implosion of 2007, if Rick head of acted faster, they could have fixed things and even privately got loans the way Ford did. Few remember that Ford was in rougher shape than GM for a while.

Suggested By: Auto Guy, Photo Credit: Getty Images


7.) Harold Poling

The Ten Worst Auto Executives Ever

Ask Bob Lutz about the bean counters. Auto Guy:

Took Ford Motor Company from being a product driven, excellence-focused company in the late 80s to a bean counter culture of mediocrity. Don Petersen's job wasn't finished when he left, and remember that the CEO serves at the pleasure of the board. The board at Ford didn't like the prophets at the time, so out with Don, and in with Red.

Suggested By: Auto Guy, Photo Credit: Getty Images


6.) Donald Stokes

The Ten Worst Auto Executives Ever

Not the buses! HydrogenOnion:

Donald Stokes was the guy running Leyland trucks/buses. The company was profitable. The government duped him into merging with BMH... that was first big idiotic thing he did.

But the other problem was under his watch that things went from bad to terrible. Terrible labour relations, terrible management that allowed managerial infighting, terrible foresight.

After the merger, he should have initiated a major housecleaning over at the BMH side. But it didn't happen... probably because of government political meddling.

Suggested By: HydrogenOnion, Photo Credit: BL


5.) George Harriman

The Ten Worst Auto Executives Ever
If Lucas Electronics turn your drive into a picnic, think of this bloke. HydrogenOnion:

George Harriman was the guy running the show at BMC and BMH in the 1960s. This idiot thought he could get out of a bad corporate situation by buying other companies like Jaguar... and it worked so "well" that the company needed a government bailout.

And that set the stage for the 1968 merger that created "British Leyland".

Suggested By: HydrogenOnion, Photo Credit: BMC


4.) Bob Eaton

The Ten Worst Auto Executives Ever

Lee Iacocca promoted him instead of Bob Lutz. Robert James Bob Eaton rewarded his trust by selling Chrysler to Daimler before before absconding to his retirement mansion on Torch Lake.

Suggested By: Auto Guy, Photo Credit: AP Images


3.) Bob Nardelli

The Ten Worst Auto Executives Ever

Bob 2 sold Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management. Bailout level 1000.

Suggested By: Auto Guy, Photo Credit: Getty Images


2.) Dany Bahar

The Ten Worst Auto Executives Ever

He couldn't be further from understanding the product. He said lightness isn't important. To a Lotus.

Seriously.

Suggested By: Arch Duke, Photo Credit: AP Images


1.) Roger Smith

The Ten Worst Auto Executives Ever

GM between 1981 and 1990. Just think about it. N2Skylark explains:

Not a single vehicle that came out during his tenure was launched properly, designed properly, or built properly. Not one.

When he blew up the divisional model, he created incredible internal chaos within the company. The W/GM-10 project suffered the most and cost the company over $7B, launched 2 years late with poor quality, and never, ever sold anywhere near expectations.

It was during his tenure that Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick started their slide from the top of the sales charts into irrelevance. It was during his tenure that Cadillac gave us the V8-6-4, HT4100, Cimarron, and Allante. So was the X-Car catastrophe. And the 5 divisions of J-cars. And the failure of their midsize and full-size coupes. His Saturn brainchild cost the company $5B before a single car was made, and the division never, ever made money for GM. It introduced yet more internal competition for GM's legacy brands. So by 1991, GM was producing 3 sets of totally unrelated, low-margin compacts at the same time, that all competed with each other. Their architectures all ended up running more than 10 years apiece because GM was being sucked dry and couldn't afford to replace them when the time came.

Under him, GM got terribly distracted and drained by the EDS debacle. Under him, GM distracted itself with SAAB, Suzuki, and Subaru and signed the NUMMI agreement with Toyota in California so the company could be taught how to build cars again.

Even after he left the CEO's office, he remained on the board and saw to it that, when GM started losing massive amounts of money in the early '90s from the cumulative effects of Roger B's reign of terror, he pinned all the losses on Lloyd Reuss and Bob Stempel so they'd take the fall. The two biggest "car guys" in the company were out (Reuss was responsible for the GNX and Roadmaster), and from the board, he ushered GM into the slow-motion trainwreck of the Jack Smith/Ron Zarella "brand management" era that saw market share dip into the 20s and never recover.

Suggested By: N2Skylark, Photo Credit: AP Images

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