One perk of being an executive in the auto industry is that you’re always driving a new, well-equipped car.
But most of the folks running companies like GM, BMW, and VW didn’t start out with anything fancy.
In interviews over the past few weeks, we asked top execs from various companies about the first car they ever owned.
Just as you’d expect from a bunch of car guys, the answers were detailed and packed with nostalgia.
Mark Reuss, who took over new GM CEO Mary Barra’s post as global head of product, started off as a GM man. He seemed to remember every detail of his first ride, a 1967 Camaro 327.
Red with a white bumblebee stripe, it was a “pretty original car.” He bought it in his dad’s Illinois hometown for $US1,300, and it came with air conditioning, power steering, and power brakes.
GM’s head of global design Ed Welburn also started off with a company car. His very first was a 1965 Buick Gran Sport. It was great, he said, since it had “all the power in the world, it was lightweight. But my parents never thought I was driving a hot rod like a [Pontiac] GTO.”
“My parents never would’ve let me buy a GTO,” he said. “But a Gran Sport, I could get away with. And it was just as quick, if not quicker.”
Maybe this is the ad that won him over:
Bob Ferguson, now head of Cadillac, drove a 1976 Mustang II, powered by a 302-cc V8 engine. Bill Peffer, Cadillac’s U.S. VP of sales and service, also started off with a Ford, a 1987 Mustang GT.
Filip Brabec, product planning manager for Audi of America, was born in Prague but moved to Wisconsin for high school after the Cold War ended. He got right into the American spirit, driving a 1989 Chevy Camaro RS, with a 5.5-liter V8 engine. “I put well over 100,000 miles on that car in college,” he said.
Among other execs from Europe, there’s a pattern. Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös started off with a Mini 850, a “lovely car.”
Andy Goss of Britain, now president of Jaguar Land Rover North America, had a 1981 Mini, in russet brown.
Infiniti President Johan de Nysschen‘s first car was a Mini — which he flipped over within 24 hours. His parents thought he was crazy, he told Business Insider.
CEO of BMW North America Ludwig Willisch had a 1958 Beetle, about 20 years old by the time he got his hands on it. It was not a unique choice, he said: “In my generation, the probability of driving a Beetle is very high, because at that time Beetle had about 50% market share,” he explained. “Especially for poor students, it had close to 100% market share.”
Kevin Rose, sales and marketing director for Bentley, almost got a Beetle, but went for a Lotus Cortina instead. It was “old and decrepit,” he said, “but for an 18-year-old is was monstrously cool.”
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