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Which Car Brand Would You Hate To Be CEO Of?

Aa Least Want To Ceo Ts
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A lot of the time, we ask you questions about cars. What do you like, what do you hate, what would you buy if you needed to get up a ski slope on a Wednesday, that sort of thing. But today we’re asking a bigger question that requires you to zoom out and think about the big picture. What automaker would you refuse to run, given the opportunity?

Picture it like this. You’re a high-flying executive with decades of experience at the top of the business world. You’ve been preparing for your next grand move, and finally, an offer is on the table. You could be President, or maybe CEO, of a given automaker. Looking over what’s in front of you, you chuckle to yourself heartily. “Not a million years,” you laugh.

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Automakers have their ups and downs, just like virtually every large business does on a long enough timeline. Boom times come when a new model perfectly predicts the taste of the zeitgeist, leading to massive sales and buckets of goodwill. The spoils, properly reinvested, can keep the party going for a decade or more. And then, on the flipside, bad times often beget more turmoil. An automaker that suffers a few bad misses can find itself short on cash to dig itself out of the hole. Often, recovery involves a lucky Hail Mary or, quite often, a buyout. Some automakers survive under new owners and maintain their identity; others are slowly pulled apart piece by piece.

Detroit, Mi, Usa. May 2, 2022. Editorial Use Only, 3d Cgi. General Motors Company Signage Logo On Top Of Glass Building. Automobile Manufacturer In High Rise Office Headquarters.
Image: Stock.Adobe.com/Askar

Your job as the head of the automaker is to navigate the maelstrom of the modern auto business. You’ll need to set a strategic direction for the company, and make tough decisions. Is it time to push big on a small trucks, or do people crave more of your luxury SUVs with ever more opulent trim levels? Do you need to close factories and put thousands out of work, or will investing in your labor force pay dividends down the road? These are very real questions that come up every day, and they tend to have consequences that take months or years to unfold. With that kind of inertia, you need a steady hand on the tiller to make sure you’re not sending your company down the tubes.

Running some automakers, though, would prove more difficult than others. It’s easy to imagine walking into a place that has been on the wrong path for some time, and just being overwhelmed with everything that’s going wrong. Imagine trying to get new product in production while every day the bean-counters are telling you there’s no way you’ll service your debt this quarter. Followed by a bollocking from the shareholders on your quarterly earnings call. Who would want to walk into that?

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Shanghai, China June 28, 2023: Stellantis Shanghai Office Exterior. Stellantis N.v. Is A Multinational Automotive Corporation Formed From The Merger Of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles And The Psa Group.
Image: Stock.Adobe.com/Tada Images

Imagine taking on Chrysler right now—an automaker with almost no product and seemingly no bold plan for the future. Seriously, head to Chrysler.com right now. The company, once a core member of the Big Three, now has the Pacifica and the 300 and not a skerrick more. For me, that’s my answer. I would not run Chrysler if you paid me.

Okay, that’s a lie. I couldn’t turn down a CEO salary or the stock options. I’d show up and give it a red hot crack and try and bank as much as I could before the house of cards came tumbling down.

So which automakers would I actually refuse to run? Well, I wouldn’t take on a role at Lada because there’s a war on, you know. Alfa Romeo seems like a tough gig, too. I also wouldn’t want to run Subaru because I can’t speak Japanese, and that whole thing with Carlos Ghosn scared me. I know it was Nissan, but either way, I don’t want to get tricked into signing something silly I can’t read and then I find out I’ve committed corporate treason or something. Plus, you know. Head gaskets.

So, what say you, commentariat? What automaker would you refuse to run—and why? The silliest answer most rooted in a thread of business reality gets the glory.

Image: Stellantis

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Defenestrator
Defenestrator
1 month ago

Rivian, or maybe Fisker.

The big incumbents have a lot of responsibility, but the CEO’s probably going to exit with a big golden parachute no matter what happens, and they’re probably just a mercenary who doesn’t care much about the long-term future of the company.

Companies like Elio or Lordstown have already given up and turned into a grift that’s maximizing C-level rewards rather than putting any real effort into success. No stress there – they’re not going to succeed at making cars anyways.

Vinfast is a huge conglomerate. I suspect they have the capital to power through their quality issues, or to absorb the hit if they can’t.

Fisker and Rivian are “real” car makers. That is, they make and sell actual cars and aren’t just a grift. They want to succeed, and they have a chance of succeeding, but they also have a high chance of failure. The wrong decision anywhere will make the difference between your company being the next Tesla or collapsing. Rivian especially very much has a legitimate chance, but only if they make a lot of good decisions and very few bad ones. Maximum pressure on the CEO.

Myk El
Myk El
1 month ago

I’d hate to be Nissan’s head right now, at least while so entangled with Renault and by extension the French government. It just seems so complicated of a relationship. Again, I don’t know a lot of details, but everytime I read something about how the arrangement works, I get a headache.

Caveat is, if I got to be CEO of Tesla in the same way Linda Yaccarino is CEO of the social media site formerly known as Twitter, that would be my Hell. If I got to actually run Tesla and no Musk involvement, game on!

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
1 month ago

I would not want to be the CEO of Bugatti because I don’t think my belief, that purchasing an old factory and the rights to a name does not make you a company that went out of business years ago, would go down well there. Nor my contention that the name should be changed immediately as it is a lie. In fact my whole “heritage cannot be bought” line would probably generate unnecessary problems. Imposter syndrome writ large, you’re not fooling anyone VW.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago

I wouldn’t want to run Ford since I don’t like Fix Or Repair Daily
The worst ever would be Tesla (I would jump off a cliff) although if I was, I would drive every car off a cliff and close the company because if Tesla ceased to exist, I would be the happiest person in the world ha ha

Bungalow Bernard
Bungalow Bernard
1 month ago

I think you’re on the money here – anything Russian would be the worst option, but right behind that is Alfa Romeo, maybe followed by Maserati or Mitsubishi. I can’t imagine how any of those will turn things around.

Matti Sillanpää
Matti Sillanpää
1 month ago

I think anything from western world would still be pretty juicy gig. Even if one doesn’t like the products (altough I’m pro-Alfa, even owned one from new, 159 wagon). Russia & china on the other hand are neither that juicy and one has to stay away from all windows.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago

For me, I’d hate to be CEO of Lada. Not only I’d have to deal with constant supply chain issues, I’d have to never lose sight over who my REAL boss is (Putin) and be VERY CAREFUL not to piss him off or I may end up in the gulag, falling out of a window or having a cup of polonium tea.

On top of that, the brand has a shit heritage of making crap that I would have little hope of turning around given the company’s situation and Russia’s situation.

Last edited 1 month ago by Manwich Sandwich
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