Car stars shine on in Detroit
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.