Car stars shine on in Detroit

NT News - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - By PAUL GOVER

OPEN­ING day of the 2011 Detroit mo­tor show is a re­minder of the stars of Aus­tralian mo­tor­ing.

An im­pres­sive pre­sen­ta­tion on the fu­ture of Ford, in­clud­ing a global drive by the Ford Fo­cus, has Jac Nasser’s name stamped all over it.

Nasser was top man at the blue oval brand and tried to pull the com­pany to­gether in a cen­tralised prod­uct-driven push into the 21st cen­tury.

Nasser was even­tu­ally de­railed by a power bat­tle with Bill Ford, now the com­pany chair­man, but the Mel­bourne man is a su­per­star who heads my per­sonal list of Aussie mo­tor­ing he­roes.

Peter Brock is an­other hero and Aus­tralia Day next week re­minds me of the work he did so of­ten, and so well, to help cel­e­brate the oc­ca­sion.

Brock used to laugh heartily when he talked about trips to small coun­try towns for par­ties.

Back at Detroit, de­sign guru Mike Sim­coe is prowl­ing the GM stand. He’s a leg­end in the Aus­tralian car busi­ness — the Monaro alone guar­an­tees his spot.

Kevin Wale is also on the GM stand and also a hero. He first sur­faced as a heavy­weight bean counter at Fish­er­mans Bend and is now run­ning GM China, the tough­est and most im­por­tant off­shore post­ing in the busi­ness.

There are lots of Aus­tralian he­roes. Sen­a­tor John But­ton re-wrote the rules for Aus­tralian car­mak­ing in the 1980s and the suc­cess of the busi­ness can be traced back to his blue­print, as well as the cur­rent en­thu­si­asm of In­dus­try Min­is­ter Kim Carr.

At Ford, the late Geoff Po­lites was the true su­per­star— re­mem­bered as the man who bull­dogged the Ter­ri­tory through the Detroit sys­tem.

It’s im­pos­si­ble to have a list of Aussie he­roes with­out the fa­ther of the orig­i­nal Holden, Sir Lau­rence Hart­nett, and mar­ket­ing guru John Bagshaw, who also starred over­seas be­fore re­turn­ing home to head Holden.

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