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Industry Shift: With Four Departures This Year, Who Is The Longest-Tenured Automotive CEO?

Dave Royse

Bayerische Moto/S ADR (OTC: BMWYY) CEO Harald Krüger’s announcement last week that he will step down as head of luxury carmaker BMW is the latest in a string of auto company CEO turnovers — the fourth this year.

The departures remove decades of experience in the top posts at the world’s top automakers and have left a new dean of car company CEOs. And it's one you might not expect.

That’s because the new longest-serving car company CEO heads up the newest car company: Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA).

Elon Musk took over as CEO of the electric automaker in 2008.

A Disruptor Settles In

Musk became the longest-serving major automaker CEO in May, when Dieter Zetsche, until then the longest-tenured CEO of a major automaker, retired as head of Daimler AG/ADR (OTC: DMLRY) after having headed the Mercedes maker since 2006. Zetsche was replaced at Daimler by Ola Kallenius.

That Musk is now the most veteran carmaker CEO is ironic in some ways.

When BMW’s Krüger announced he was stepping down, some media reports cited competition from the “upstart” Tesla and the disruption the electric car maker has injected into the luxury car market as a factor in BMW’s difficulties and Krüger’s decision.

The industry has seen two other changes in the C-suite this year, one due to retirement and one forced by a major scandal.

Last month, Mistusbishi Corp/S ADR (OTC: MSBHY) CEO Osamu Masuko, who has headed the company for five years, stepped down and was replaced by the industry’s newest CEO Takao Kato.

In January, Renault SA/ADR (OTC: RNLSY) CEO Carlos Ghosn resigned after his arrest in connection with a financial scandal. That led to the hiring of Thierry Bolloré to run the iconic French car company.

The group’s only woman, Mary Barra, has been CEO at General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) since 2014.

Korean auto giant Hyundai Mtr Co/GDR (OTC: HYMTF) has a more complicated leadership structure, but also saw turnover this year. Chung Eui-son became a co-CEO this year with Lee Won-hee, who also got his job this year. They share CEO duties with Chung's father, company's chairman Chung Mong-koo, and vice president Ha Eon-tae.

The Execs

The following is a list of auto company CEOs and the years when they took their posts:

  • Tesla: Elon Musk, in 2008.
  • Toyota Motor Corp (NYSE: TM): Akio Toyoda, 2009.
  • General Motors: Mary Barra, 2014.
  • Peugeot SA/ADR (OTC: PUGOY): Carlos Tavares, 2014.
  • Honda Motor Co Ltd (NYSE: HMC): Takahiro Hachigo, 2015.
  • BMW: Harald Krüger, 2015; he's set to step down once a decision is made on a successor. 
  • Nissan Motor Co Ltd: (OTC: NSANY): Hiroto Saikawa, 2017.
  • Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F): Jim Hackett, 2017.
  • Mazda Mtr Corp/ADR (OTC: MZDAY): Akira Marumoto, 2018.
  • Volkswagen AG/ADR (OTC: VWAPY): Herbert Diess, 2018.
  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (NYSE: FCAU): Michael Manley, 2018.
  • Suzuki Motor Corp (OTC: SZKMF): Toshihiro Suzuki, 2018.
  • Daimler AG: Ola Kaellenius, 2019.
  • Renault: Thierry Bolloré, 2019.
  • Mitsubishi: Takao Kato, 2019.

Related Links:

Judge Dismisses Elon Musk Contempt Claims, Orders Revision Of Settlement Addressing SEC Concerns

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Chairman Arrested On Trading Violations

Photo by Steve Jurvetson/Wikimedia. 

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