Dieter Zetsche, president and chief executive officer of the Chrysler Group, paid homage to the legendary "car guys" of years past, such as Walter P. Chrysler, Gottleib Daimler and Soichiro Honda, but outlined a prescription for a new breed of car guy necessary to
adapt and excel in a new market climate in order for a company to maintain
product leadership within the automotive industry.
Speaking to more than 1,200 engineers and industry executives at the 2003
SAE World Congress, at Cobo Hall, in Detroit, Zetsche said, "In today's
automotive world - - defined by a fast-paced market, rapidly advancing
technology, complex regulations and ever-changing geo-politics - - natural
instincts will not be enough."
During his speech, Zetsche reflected on the importance of engineers to
rediscover their "inner car guy. There is no guarantee of success, reward
or happiness in our profession - - or in any other for that matter. But,
every now and again, we need to relight the flame. We're going to need a
new breed of car guy...for a new era. That new car 'guy' is as likely to
be defined by women engineers as it is by men."
According to Zetsche, two critical ingredients that will define this new
breed are passion and science - - "a passion for the product, balanced with
the knowledge and discipline of engineering and science."
He added that both are important to be successful: The passion for
developing, building, marketing and selling great vehicles must be balanced
with the "hard science" foundation that helps prevent mediocrity or
Speaking about the Chrysler Group, Zetsche said, "Our renewals have always
been fueled when we've gone back to our roots...recaptured our passion for
engineering and product...and brought it to the market quickly with
vehicles that deliver on the rational level, and yet still excite."
Zetsche also spoke of a need for the new breed of car guy to be comfortable
in the arts of diplomacy and communication. "The difficult technical
challenges we're taking on today to meet a host of customer, regulatory and
market requirements will not be solved by just bending sheet metal, adding
cubic inches, boosting horsepower or offering new trim packages," he added.
But Zetsche also noted that, "as much as things change in this
industry...with all of the highly technical challenges in safety,
emissions, alternative fuels, you name it...it still comes down to building
Earlier in the week, when he was named Automotive Industries' "2003
Executive of the Year," Zetsche voiced similar sentiments outlining
Chrysler's unique passion for developing segment-defining, aspirational
products. He said, "passion is only half of a successful product equation.
It must be balanced with a commitment to process discipline that makes
automotive innovation relevant in the marketplace."
"We have dedicated ourselves to being the industry leader in product
innovation - - and to continually use our 'creative DNA' to produce an
unending series of aspirational cars and trucks that people will want to
own and drive. Along the way, we are working to create a very distinctive
car company - - and a new model for industry leadership for years to come."