Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

Truth or Dare

Dave Cole’s friendliness and the Traverse City air had a strong relaxing effect on CEOs during the Q&A session Wednesday morning.

Several times, the animated conversations led to levels of personal honesty more common in less public arenas.

Talking about family sacrifices executives make for their jobs, Honda America Executive Vice President Richard Colliver says he’s moved 10 times with his family and, “my kids still hate me for it.”

Dana’s CEO Gary Convis, who spent 30 years with Toyota, says the auto maker asked managers at all levels to mentor the people under them. “I didn’t do a very good job of it,” he says, only coming to understand the idea 10 years ago.

Repo King of Kansas City

American Honda’s Dick Colliver has labored in the auto industry for 50 years, he tells attendees here.

Like many auto executives who have spent decades in the business, Colliver served stints at several auto makers, including Chrysler and Mazda. But that’s not where he got his start.

“I was the ‘repo king’ of Kansas City,” he says. “Talk about getting close to the customer!”

Colliver says he would patiently wait outside for defaulters to arrive home. Once, he repossessed three cars and a truck in the same day – all to the same dealer.

The dealer told him, “Son, I can’t sell ‘em as fast as you’re bringing ‘em back.”

A Legend in His Own Time

Veteran journalist David C. Smith now can add “legend” to his long list of honorary titles and achievements.

Commenting on the positive role journalists have played in the auto industry and in helping the Management Briefing Seminars grow in size and stature, Center for Automotive Research Chairman Dave Cole called Ward’s AutoWorld magazine founder Smith a “legend” for his contributions to the industry.

Smith has been reporting on Traverse City’s now famous automotive confab since 1972.

Lamenting Homebodies

A frank discussion about current and future automotive employees broke out during a panel discussion Wednesday morning.

Chrysler’s Tom LaSorda brought down the house with his beef that in an increasingly global auto industry, employees don’t want to move.

“We’re seeing huge trends right now with dual-income families and asking people, ‘How would you like to go to Russia, or how would you like to go to China or India?’

“I remember growing up in the business and Monday morning your ass was in another location – it wasn’t kissing them on the cheek,” he says as the crowd erupted in laughter.

Honda’s Dick Colliver says the auto maker has had trouble recruiting people to work not in some far-flung locale but, surprisingly, California.

“People are becoming domesticated. They want to settle in, they want to nest,” he says of job applicants Honda has encountered.

Colliver also laments the fact “kids today are looking for a yellow brick road,” wanting rewards but not willing to make the sacrifices to get them.

– compiled by Barbara McClellan