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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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Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
2 months ago

Any EV startup that’s hiring me to take the fall in the form of some sort of prison sentence.

Noodles Gargamel
Noodles Gargamel
2 months ago

Fisker. Because Matt Hardigree keeps trying to destroy them.

Roofless
Roofless
2 months ago

I feel like Lancia’d have to be the worst – storied brand with a history of making some of the most unique, beautiful cars of all time, reduced to a Stelantis subsidiary selling one sad badge-engineered model (which, granted, isn’t a Chrysler 200 anymore, but is still pretty friggin’ sad). Anything in the Stelantis umbrella would be a depressing gig, but Lancia feels like the grimmest of the lot.

Chris D
Chris D
2 months ago

VinFast. Their cars suck at everything, are way too expensive and they are a notorious laughingstock. Their financial position is precarious at best. If you don’t toe the line you get arrested and thrown in jail. It’s an Asian third-world nightmare.

James Carson
James Carson
2 months ago

None of them. Any organization as large as the auto manufacturer is going to be an absolute nightmare to accomplish anything useful. The logical solution would be to pick the one with the best exit package and hold on til it vests.

Ford_Timelord
Ford_Timelord
2 months ago

Subaru.
They are at a turning point. They have massive goodwill and consumer loyalty but only a small range of product. Part of the their unique selling proposition will be not be unique soon as a lot of cars generally turn electric (no boxer engine) and symmetrical (electric motor). The things that make a Subaru a subaru… It seems that major shareholder Toyota are giving them hybrid for the next Forester (unsure if boxer at this stage) so Toyota are interested in them being around for now but it would be sad if Subaru are just rebadged Toyotas in the future. Like when SAAB got General Motored.

Gene1969
Gene1969
2 months ago

Plymouth. How would you even get that going?

Chris D
Chris D
2 months ago
Reply to  Gene1969

Relabel all the cool European stuff, along with the Pacifica, and bring back the Colt and the Arrow mini-truck.

Gene1969
Gene1969
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris D

Not a bad idea!

Cal67
Cal67
2 months ago

I wouldn’t turn down any of them because I haven’t seen a golden parachute for any auto exec that I wouldn’t like to be on the receiving end of.

Mike Dt
Mike Dt
2 months ago
Reply to  Cal67

just about every Fortune 500 CEO job seems like a good bet. If you do well, you get obscene amounts of money. If you do poorly you just get a lot of money.

AlterId
AlterId
2 months ago

One more: Aptera, because I couldn’t resist bringing out a sport-utility personal luxury landau off-road coupe version just for the lolz. And I need to be stopped.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
2 months ago

Disappointed in the lack of Jon Lovitz pictures here.

MDMK
MDMK
2 months ago

Toyota, because the risk vs. reward equation for such a well run company isn’t worth it. I don’t like the odds of being known as the guy who royally screwed up Toyota of all brands.

Last edited 2 months ago by MDMK
I_drive_a_truck
I_drive_a_truck
2 months ago

Ferrari. Hands down. The level of pretention and unspoken judgement at that place has got to be off the charts. Working in LA or with Brits was bad enough, Maranello would be the final end boss of insufferability.

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
2 months ago

Daihatsu, because Japanese pay sucks, and you have to clean up the mess they’re in now.

Last edited 2 months ago by Fix It Again Tony
Jb996
Jb996
2 months ago

Let’s see, being CEO…
Make 10s of millions of dollars to: fail, succeed, try, not try, help shareholders, screw shareholders, develop new product, milk every cent from an old product, etc., etc., etc….

I would be CEO of ANY company. It doesn’t really matter.

ChefCJ
ChefCJ
2 months ago
Reply to  Jb996

This was exactly what I was going to comment. Get paid millions, suck at job, get paid out millions to leave. If there’s a downside, I’m failing to see it

Library of Context
Library of Context
2 months ago

Does Lordstown Motors still count as a car company? If not, then Nikola Motor.

I’d hate to be the last one left when the music stops and the SEC knocks at the door.

edit: Wait, I just remembered one – Elio Motors. Remember them?

Last edited 2 months ago by Library of Context
AlterId
AlterId
2 months ago

Sadly, I’d certainly want to avoid Studebaker-Packard. BMC circa 1966 might not have been quite so bad, as I’d have agreed with the unions to put in job-sharing rather than redundancies, which might have made labour (sic) relations a bit smoother in the early Leyland years. And Borgward could have been fun to play with as a well-funded absolute dictator, building on their attractive portfolio and beating BMW in the export markets at a time when Nazi affiliations were still a bug rather than a feature with a sotto voce campaign reminding buyers about the wartime forced labor the Quandt family didn’t “discover” until 2012 and that Harald was Joseph Goebbels’ stepson.

But of modern brands, surprisingly, it would be one of which I have the fondest of memories – Hispano-Suiza. The brand is being revived by the original family owner, and I don’t know if I could do the things necessary to make it successful. Take the website – it’s publicly accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, which is awfully common of them, and it looks like they’re going to pump out a bunch of nearly identical copies of a given model just like mass-market whores such as Rolls-Royce, McLaren and Bugatti do. True exclusivity means coachbuilt bodies and only two examples of each – one for the client’s use and one for crash testing per current regulatory mandates. I just don’t think I could stand wallowing in the mud through which Cullinans must tromp.

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
2 months ago
Reply to  AlterId

I could see the Hispano job as being fun, though. Drift into the office at noon or so smelling of Egoiste and Veuve Cliquot, use lots of phrases like “Darling, wouldn’t this look better if it were skinned in copper?” and collect a fat paycheck for producing le vaporware.

AlterId
AlterId
2 months ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

They’ve put it back in Barcelona, which is great, but I was further disappointed that the second language on the website is Spanish rather than Catalan.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
2 months ago

You know, I have to believe that if I ran some of these companies I couldn’t possibly screw it up any worse than a lot of the current jokers in charge and I’d sure love the ridiculous salaries and bonuses and the inevitable golden parachute even if I did fail.

(Note: all below are meant to refer to the conglomerates, not the individual brands)

With that said, Nissan is a simple (insert appropriate string of expletives here) NO. I just don’t see anything there worth saving. I also don’t see myself as being able to ever turn GM away from the entrenched bureaucracy; the inertia is just too strong.

Stellantis would be a crazy hard but quite possibly fun challenge. There’s so much work to be done in restoring what should be the glorious Dodge and Chrysler brands (and yes, bringing RAM back under Dodge where it belongs).

Even more, I would love a shot at pulling Ford out of their quality issues and some of their more stupid initiatives because underneath all that I feel like there’s the bones of a really good car company.

Last edited 2 months ago by OrigamiSensei
Abdominal Snoman
Abdominal Snoman
2 months ago

I’d have to go with RAM, mainly because my choice of company car would be huge pickup, huge pickup, or huge pickup…

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
2 months ago

That’s not entirely fair – you forgot huger pickup and hugest pickup

Seriously though, Chrysler or anything under that cotton candy umbrella called Stellantis. At least at the other places, the decisions might be tough but meaningful. At Chrysler in particular, best you can do is plead your stablemates to throw you a bone that you can rebadge.

AlterId
AlterId
2 months ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Given that Chrysler has joined its old Rootes and Simca subsidiaries inside the corporation formerly known as PSA, it’s high time there was a heritage revival of the first front-drive crossover that I can think of as maybe the Ram Lamb or something.

H4llelujah
H4llelujah
2 months ago

“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.”

This is pretty much whats been happening since 2005.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
2 months ago

Every time I think of a company that’s got a bad trajectory, I think about how much better it could be with new leadership. This is a legitimately hard question, it’s easy to say that I’d hate to head up Apple Automotive or Canoo, but for any look at companies with issues other than monetary, I just see ways I could make them better, or at least improve the quality of their cars for one last hoorah.

Yes I Drive A 240
Yes I Drive A 240
2 months ago

Tesla.

I’m not sure if being a cult leader is something I’d enjoy.

Needles Balloon
Needles Balloon
2 months ago

For conglomerates, nothing beats Stellantis.

Individual brands is where things get interesting. I’d nominate:
~ Infiniti – what is their purpose or identity? Lexus is cushy luxury, Acura is sharp and slightly sporty, and both are reliable. Infiniti just…exists. Their product is ageing, and it’s all rebadged Nissans anyways.
~ Alfa Romeo – At least they have an identity, but it’s not strong enough to overcome their reliability reputation. They’ll be able to keep their nice styling into the EV world, which puts their future less in doubt
~ Maserati – Unlike Alfa, their identity/purpose is diminished severely by the loss of Ferrari ICE engines.
~ Jaguar – Their product is old, they’re kinda forgotten, and LR does the British luxury SUV thing better. They need to ace their EV transition to justify their survival.
~ Faraday Future – LOL

Random Shots
Random Shots
2 months ago

The hypothetical Car Enthusiast’s Automaker (CEA).

The CEA would raise enough shareholder capital from GoFundMe and membership drives to make one model. Then I would have to spend all my time trying to convince the shareholders that a brown, diesel, manual wagon sold for $5,000.00 with 300 hp and 40 MPG city along with cloth seats, roll up windows, a panoramic sunroof, and Apple Carplay/Android Auto was just not viable.

I would get ousted and then the shareholders would make the car and they would find out the market demand for said vehicle was 12 before shutting down saying that it was the market that was wrong and not them.

DaChicken
DaChicken
2 months ago

As long as they pay well, I’d happily be a CEO for any of them.Or for any other company, for that matter. If the money is right, I’m all in. A year (at most) of CEO BS would likely set me up for life.

If I had a choice of where to go, GM might be fun. They’ve traditionally had strong engineers with decent designers and have made some good stuff when they get the “business” people out of the way. If nothing else, it would be interesting to get a front row seat to see how big business things fail in real time.

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