Our New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman recently sat down with former Cadillac (and Infiniti and Audi of America) boss Johan De Nysschen for the Cadillac of exit interviews. Here is the transcript of their lengthy and wide-ranging talk, which has been edited slightly for clarity.
AM: You were in the middle of a contract when you left? That was—
Johan de Nysschen: My contract was actually open ended. You know, when you have these top-level executive separations, they can feel pretty brutal. It’s not at all uncommon that they go hand in hand with a noncompete period and [one is] precluding me from taking up employment with another automaker. Mine lasts for one year and, well, it feels much longer when you’re on this side of the fence.
You know, it’s quite something to go from being on 24/7 to suddenly waking up to an empty calendar.
It feels like car companies are operating today on two almost diametrically opposed prerogatives. The stock market, which is all-important, wants companies to be all over autonomy and electric vehicles and the future. At the same time, it wants them to deliver record profits now. Any interest in market share for market share’s sake or having a diverse model range or having a global footprint has gone out the window.
The stock market’s short-term focus is troublesome not just for the auto industry, but also across all sectors. It is problematic. Because it really does force management to optimize the short-run results. When you do that, then you can just steer for the best possible long-term outcome that ensues from all the short-term optimization. If you are a leader now at any one of the world’s auto companies, you are facing a set of circumstances, which in terms of the complexity, probably exceeds that that’s ever gone before.
You have to manage your conventional car portfolio with entries that are developed to a point of being highly capable and competitive in terms of both product substance and cost. To allow you to compete on the world’s stage. And those vehicles have to generate profits. On the other hand, you also now have to face the reality that the industry is experiencing incredible disruption that’s primarily driven by technology and advanced connectivity. The increased connectivity speeds and ability to take computing off-board is transforming the automobile and its use case.
You also have to deal, obviously, with artificial intelligence and autonomous-vehicle technology. You have to get your arms around developing the capabilities, the technical ability, and competitive products in the zero-emission space, an area where there is still very little consumer demand.
It’s growing, however.
It’s growing, but companies are having to commit billions, and none of these EV entries would pass the acid test applied for project approval in their conventional portfolios. They will all fail miserably.
By what measure?
They don’t pay, so CEOs are having to take these high-risk investment decisions.
With not even a glimmer of a guarantee of return.
Exactly. But you know that if you don’t do it, you’re in trouble. But if you do it, it’s also going to dilute the very things that you’re measured on by the corporate quarterly results. You have to pay for balance. You cannot be all things for all people, and no company has unlimited resources. Be they engineering resources, be they financial ones.
I think companies are being forced to make some trade-offs. They have to continue investment in their conventional portfolio, but contain that investment to only product type securities and segments that are putting money in the bank. And with the shifting consumer demand away from sedans, that pure rational logic is what has seen companies like Ford, for example, decide to vacate certain passenger-car segments. But doing that enables them to focus on the conventional segments that will make the most money.
Manufacturers will have to decide. They can’t double up their investment and both maintain the conventional portfolio and develop all these new-technology vehicles. That’s because the conventionally powered cars are still going to be around a long time. People almost get offended when I say this. But people tend to think of the world and define it by their own experience, their own environment. If you’re sitting in California, it’s very easy to imagine that the EVs already here and that there’s this global demand and you just need more charging stations. Go to the Midwest—good luck with that idea. Remember, the auto companies all have global footprints and their geographies transcend the borders of the United States. There are many markets that are far less mature than even the U.S.’s embryonic EV market. You therefore have to still imagine that you’re going to be investing in internal-combustion-engine vehicles until 2035, or perhaps even beyond. So that’s a given.
[On the other hand,] if you want to play in China, you have to, quite clearly, make sure that you are able to take into account all of these regulatory requirements.
But in China, what about people who live in less populous, less densely populated parts of the country?
They have the same problems we have here. The emission requirements will be far more vigorously enforced in the tier-one cities, and you will find far more zero-emissions vehicles. In the poorer, rural areas where affordability is an issue and where circumstances are quite clearly different, you’re still going to have to offer conventional engines. They have this bifurcated demand, too.
The issue then is whether are automakers are investing in mastering and developing the technology in-house or whether they partner. There are some companies who just by virtue of the history and the corporate culture, like to in-source a lot. But the intellectual property and the ability to differentiate is far more challenging when it comes to EVs than it is with internal combustion because the complexity of the mechanical system is what creates a better mouse trap. It’s far more—
Exactly. But it’s far more ubiquitous with EVs. You know, you have electric motors. And an electric motor is an electric motor. A battery’s a battery. Now, I don’t want to oversimplify. You’ve got your [battery] chemistry. You’ve got more sophisticated motors, but still generally speaking, the differentiation is far lower.
You could as an automaker decide to invest in mastering, in house, all of this capability to develop your own batteries and the intellectual property to your cell chemistry. And what can happen is that the entire supplier industry—which between them probably have more investment resources than any single automaker—might come up with a better technology.
You’ve just invested in a dead end. Now, if you for that reason decide it might be smarter and less risky to partner, you also need to understand the secondary traditional relationships between the OEMs, and the power balance between the OEMs and the Tier 1 suppliers. Because if you end up outsourcing all of this technology, you eventually become just an assembler. It’s a very complex set of circumstances that you have to manage about how much to invest, the return on the product, how much do you reuse components. It’s entirely a new ballgame.
Does anyone have a better handle on it than anyone else at this point?
No. I think it’s clear that some companies have embraced and adopted these new technologies more readily. I think, for instance, GM is in a good position going forward. And I think that we must anticipate that as everybody continues to work the cost out of the systems, it will reach a point where these vehicles begin to turn profitable and the more cars you sell, the more money you make as opposed to the other way around.
Do you feel that some companies are not being as aggressive as they ought to be?
Yeah, well, not everybody is. Everybody realizes where the future is leading by now. But some started late. I think Ford, for example, is getting punished by the stock market for being late, not just in electrification but also mobility. What Ford’s strategy is going forward, I just don’t know.
The market is expecting companies to be right on top of the future for the first time. That didn’t seem to matter so much when people thought they would sell IC cars forever.
The issue is that many analysts mistakenly believe that by 2025, every car is going to be an EV or a car that drives itself. They almost react with disappointment when I tell them it’s not the case. They don’t want to hear that.
Do you feel like automakers are undervalued as a result?
I think the automakers are undervalued. If you look at levels of profitability, I think the market is also applying a big multiple valuation to new emerging technologies in the growth stocks. Those who don’t make money but grow like hell are the ones that are favored. And I would assume that the auto business is not an industry that can experience that kind of growth. In fact, it’s being further fragmented because startups are a dime a dozen today, because the barriers to entry to vehicle manufacturing in the electric age—owing to simplicity—are dramatically lower.
Can you discuss the major German makers working in America?
Volkswagen Group are obviously, financially, very heavily committed now to electrification by virtue of being forced into it. They have an advantage, I think, in terms of their readiness to have an EV portfolio available in the near future. I think in the near term it’s likely also to dilute financial performance, but that’s going to be a phase that all makers are going to have to go through. Certainly at VW, by virtue of its market dominance in China, they ironically find themselves well positioned to respond to the [Chinese EV mandates] by virtue of what the U.S. has forced them to do.
Is diesel dead?
I think diesel has received a pretty bad rap. But regardless of what engineers tell you and the opportunities for further technological advances, I think its image is so rotten that it’s done. I think that the future of the automobile has got zero emissions written all over it. Everybody wants to get there. People have different ideas about how quickly and which avenues to follow, but it’s a desired end state. I think nobody challenges that. And I for one also drove—I don’t mind saying—the idea to position Cadillac as a technology dealer inside GM, including electrification, because I think electrification is a big reset point for everybody. If you’ve built up a 100-year-long reputation for engineering excellence of mechanical components, it counts for diddly squat when suddenly it’s about—
There’s no advantage anymore. So it’s a great leveler. And I felt it was a good opportunity for us to position Cadillac very progressively.
I was quite fond of the ELR and was disappointed it was so expensive. I felt like if you sold 5,000 at a much lower price point, and just sold them out, and then said, “Sorry, that’s all we can make,” that would have led to a better result.
All I can say is that the financial performance for the car was catastrophic. Even at that price point.
What about Cadillac can you talk about? I learned recently that it wasn’t your idea to move its headquarters to New York, but that is certainly not the way that story was told in the press and that’s seemed kind of unfair.
That’s true. When I was recruited, I was informed that the company would relocate to New York. In fact, I met with Dan Ackerson at the Detroit Athletic Club, after Mary [Barra] had already been appointed as CEO. He said to me that that decision had already been taken by him while he was CEO. It predated me quite considerably. When I arrived at the company, it was the worst-kept secret and I will have to say that the morale of the Cadillac team wasn’t great. I had the joy of announcing the relocation internally, and of course once you announce it internally, it’s external. And I think in that way, my name got attached to it. I didn’t mind. Somebody has to announce it.
I will say that the principle of putting some distance between an empowered semi-autonomous Cadillac division and the rest of the corporation to me to this day makes a lot of sense.
I think the issue was up until that stage, until the Cadillac division had been created and empowered to control its own product manning, marketing, and distribution, all of those things had been done corporate generically for all the brands. I always said that the rules of the luxury market are different than the rules of the mainstream market. What’s good for Chevy isn’t necessarily good for Cadillac.
The thing is if you didn’t have geographic separation, the meetings and the decision makers and the faces won’t change. Did it have to be New York? I don’t know. It’s an expensive place, which I encounter every day of my life [living in nearby Hoboken]. But it’s also clear that folks who rooted for Detroit felt betrayed. Cadillac had an enemy. The truth of the matter’s quite different. I always say that it felt to me that Cadillac had its roots in Detroit, always will be from Detroit and Detroit’s their hometown, and we wish that our hometown would be rooting for us as we go and challenge the world to become what we used to be.
The way I saw my job at Cadillac was to grow the company again. To achieve that by addressing the constraints in the product portfolio, in terms of powertrain availability. Engines were generically developed with the Chevy brand in mind and, then, “Okay, well, yeah, it’s good enough for Cadillac.” The strong U.S.-centric focus that so characterized Cadillac’s entire existence was precisely what inhibited it from getting the products that it needed because the volumes just weren’t there to justify the investments, and every one of the [proposed] projects would bomb out on the financial evaluation. GM—having gone into bankruptcy and emerged from it very successfully—has a very vigorous set of requirements for new investment. There are no pet projects.
And I’ll tell you candidly the company has more things that people want to invest in that it can afford to, so its hands are tied there.
I think the product plan through to 2025 will just improve. It’s really exciting. Part one of the product portfolio plan was just to catch up with the conventional owners and to be in the segments where the customers were buying. So it’s common knowledge, bringing the little crossover [the XT4], bringing in the XT6, updating the new Escalade—the new one’s going to be absolutely fantastic. But then the question is what lies beyond? And that is where GM didn’t have a specific technology roadmap aligned to particular brands. The process simply was, as they were developing new technologies, they would look at what product’s launch date would be aligned with the maturation date and market readiness of a technology and go with it, whether Buick, Chevy, or what have you.
Doesn’t that butt heads with the idea that your premium brand should have your premium technology?
You’re exactly right. I spent a lot of effort on that and I eventually got agreement inside the company. Cadillac will sort of become the technology leader. There’s a lot of sense to it. It helps build the image. It helps to commercialize the new technologies in relatively lower volumes. And it allows you then to handle your learning curve a little bit better and ultimately cascade these technologies down where you’ve established commercialization, and you can improve pricing.
Makes a lot of sense. Must be why people do it.
And that then positioned Cadillac to lead electrification. No longer Chevrolet. Cadillac has got some really compelling electrification entries that I think are going to dramatically change people’s perception of the brand and in particular give it a far more progressive image than it somewhat unjustifiably has in the minds of a lot of young people today.
Cadillac—certainly during my time there and I have no reason to assume anything different now—absolutely wants to be American. It wants to be the personification of American luxury. The one area, though, that you have to acknowledge whether you like it or not, is that the European brands in particular are seen as benchmarks for excellence and execution. In regard to technologies, finish, craftsmanship—those kinds of things. And I would say justifiably because they do it really well.
[I also] had to address some of the remaining weaknesses in the company. One of them was that there was only one common manufacturing quality standard for all the brands. When you have that, but you are producing brands that cover the price spectrum from $18,000 to $120,000, you’re going to do one of two things. You’re either going to make your cheap car too expensive, or you’re going to make your expensive car unworthy of its peer set. And we had challenges in terms of fit and finish and precision. And a lot of those things were not manufacturing-process related, they were engineering standards and design-inspired things. By establishing a dedicated Cadillac team for product planning, design, engineering, engines, and transmissions, we created a team in all the functional areas where there was now a Cadillac voice.
When powertrain was thinking about doing a new engine, there was now a Cadillac person saying, ‘Hey, that new engine needs these noise, vibration, and harshness characteristics for Cadillac, maybe you want to do balance shafts for that version,’ that kind of thing. It’s still in place. And we developed a new set of engineering standards that have informed the development and design and engineering of all of these new vehicles.
We didn’t stop there. We also then developed new manufacturing quality standards, and new processes in some cases to enable the execution to really go up so that Cadillac could be the standard. In the process, a lot of people put in a lot of effort, and I think the company learned a lot and grew as a result. I personally believe it is for the betterment of all of GM.
What about autonomy?
You know, when one talks about this stuff, it’s a mistake to oversimplify the issue and view autonomy in isolation. That one thing is touching everything else. I think we need to consider the future of personal mobility—of which autonomous capability is one subset—holistically. My first comment will be that we will most definitely see an autonomous car by 2025. But it is likely to be deployed in a tightly geo-fenced area, likely by an Uber-like service, and it may look a bit funky because it will need to offer good packaging with all the antennas, sensors, and everything else.
It probably won’t be until somewhere between 2035 and 2040 before autonomous capability is available on the average mainstream Toyota Corolla. If I [might] digress for a moment, the cars that are being developed now, the people doing them don’t know how big the sensors are going to be moving forward. Designers are making assumptions to package-protect and they may be right, but they may be wrong. Right now, these sensors are pretty bulky things and the size of the computers that you need take up a whole trunk and use a lot of energy. This will improve, but at what rate?
So that limits the type of applications they’re appropriate for?
Exactly. It’s far more complex than some coding and getting the car to figure out what is a bicycle and what is a pedestrian. What we have to consider is, what’s the use case? Why would people want this? Because if you don’t understand what motivates people to a problem technology, well then you may be going down the wrong avenue. One of the things that we know is that urbanization is accelerating globally. The number of megacities in the world will double in the next 10 years. And 82 percent of the people in the U.S. already live in metropolitan areas.
Asia is now experiencing hyper-accelerated urbanization, and then Africa is going to take off. New York is a very good example of what happens in megacities, where if you think about it, it’s kind of ironic the way they’re improved by the viability of personal mobility courtesy of the automobile. You’ve got the cores and then you have this far-flung urban sprawl. And even the cities with the best mass-transit systems don’t cover everywhere. People need cars. And then you get to places like Los Angeles where if you don’t have a car, well, good luck, you don’t work.
The concept of individual mobility has become so successful that it’s now created a problem for itself in terms of its sustainability. We have horrible congestion, we’ve got noise, we’ve got pollution, we’ve got time wasted, all that stuff. And now New York is a good example where there are significant cost barriers to entry emerging as well. It’s not just the inconvenience, it’s parking. The parking at my office is $900 a month. You also need to have parking at home. So now you need two parking spots. And then the high insurance. By the time you get to the monthly payment, that’s the smallest part of vehicle ownership here.
Now add into that the youth of today are less infatuated with automobiles than our generation. Their ideas of freedom are different. And in Germany, my understanding is they’ve already seen, over the last six or seven years, a 25 percent or so decline in the number of 21-year-olds who have their driver licenses. Isn’t that interesting? What is this telling us? That with the advent of technology-enabled things like Uber where you have access to mobility, why do you need a car? You don’t need a car 90 percent of the time. And the youth are totally brand-agnostic. Their level of brand loyalty is going to fashion and technology items, not to cars.
So if you’re an automaker and you realize that your market is being reshaped because everybody’s moving to the megacities where the majority of vehicles are sold, the people who represent your future don’t care about cars, and they care even less about who’s making them, and remember, we could outsource all the technology to Tier 1 suppliers? Car manufacturers become contract manufacturers. They just assemble. The only way you can defend yourself against all of that is through brand. You have to work very hard to differentiate your brand when the opportunities for differentiation get fewer and fewer and fewer.
You need the core cars that are your meat and potatoes, they make the money, they do the volume, they take care of the business. But you also need some halo cars, that do the brand lift by themselves [even though they] are probably unprofitable. But their financial performance is in the increase in pricing power they apply to the rest of the range by brand elevation. And then you need to have some products that are going to drive growth by entering market segments where you’re not present. And in their first iteration, they’re probably unprofitable, too. Because you have no existing customer base there, you have to conquest them all, you have very little content carryover from previous models. But across the entire board, you have to be profitable.
When I learned of this, again, very appropriate and vigorous green-light process at GM regarding investment decisions, it soon became apparent to me that some emotional, image-building halo cars I wanted would be dead because they were being viewed on individual standalone profitability. And so you lose cars like convertibles and coupes and sexy things, which actually were important to us.
So now imagine if we could transform the ownership landscape with subscription-based ownership [as was done with the now-paused Book by Cadillac], where depending on your mood and your needs, you have a demand for everything. I could certainly grow demand for cabriolets like this. And through that element you begin to justify developing these vehicles. So it kind of worked both ways, but getting into the issue of individual mobility driven through autonomous-cars [changes the equation further].
And we also wanted to look into how do you incorporate the dealer. How much of the value chain do they own? And how do you share the revenues? There are many things that needed to be learned. One thing is clear: It’s going to be extremely difficult while you are growing the subscription service to protect them. Why is that? Well, you’re now putting all those cars on your own data sheet. You own and operate them yourself. And they are then subjected to financial-depreciation provisions, and the rate of depreciation on your balance sheet exceeded the rental income. And you only close the loop when you sell the used car, when you then actually had a profit opportunity.
But if you want to grow, you keep adding cars—
Repeating the cycle?
Exactly. And you keep postponing the time when the system becomes self-sustaining. It may well be that was one of the learnings that drove the decision to suspend Book, because it was costing a lot of money. Given that many of Cadillac’s products are at the end of their life cycles right now and only beginning to ramp up the launches of the new ones, maybe Q4 of last year had several different financial priorities that had to be addressed.
These things are difficult. You also have to consider when you want to start new things like subscriptions, the whole idea is that it ought to be seamless and appeal to this new target audience that you’re looking at, right? And there’s a whole lot of IT investment going into making that little thing look so easy. And if you’re still doing it as a pilot in three, four, five, six, seven cities, you don’t have critical mass to justify that expense. There was a very light layer of technology so that people could access it simply on the app. So everything behind it was also going to require a big investment.
Speaking to former colleagues, my understanding is that they are preparing to reopen [Book] and they’re probably getting some of the behind the scenes infrastructural things right.
Let’s change gears entirely and ask you about Mr. Ghosn and Nissan. What can you tell me about that?
I think I’m as shocked as anyone else by this whole developing circumstance. Carlos Ghosn, the one I know, is not a nice guy. He’s tough and very demanding, but I have never ever had any reason to assume any integrity issues. When all of the stuff came out, I was absolutely shocked and mortified and my kind of kneejerk reaction was it has all the smell of a palace coup.
What about Greg Kelly, who has been indicted with Ghosn? Do you know him well?
Very—in fact, I know Greg and his wife, they visited us in our home. I wouldn’t say we’re friends, but we knew each other professionally when I was there and had a relationship. I haven’t had any more contact with him since I left Nissan.
Quite candidly, I look at what I read in the paper, about how he was enticed to go [to Japan, where he was subsequently arrested,] and it seems a bit shady. And why the drama of the airport [arrest] with the news media in attendance? They could have arrested him in his office if they wanted to do that, right?
They’re trying to create theater and inflict maximum damage to his reputation. Nothing I saw [at Infiniti] gave me any inkling of [the allegations]. I don’t have personally much to contribute to it more than I’ve said right now. While I wasn’t involved directly with discussions on distributors for Nissan and Infiniti in the Middle East—and Saudi Arabia in particular—it was part of the job of the guy who ran the region for me, and I know in Saudi Arabia that various factions of the royal family control everything. If you aren’t in with one, you don’t get any business done. There was an issue where the entire corporation’s business was being held up by a member of the family who had the distribution rights and was clearly relying on them for a living.
I don’t know this for a fact, but it would not surprise me if [the alleged $14.7 million] facilitation money was paid to help broker a solution to [the Saudi distribution issue].
What was Ghosn like?
Very formal sort of guy. He was certainly not relaxed or didn’t encourage a relaxed demeanor in his meetings. I’ll illustrate; I was told very clearly to never, ever be late for a meeting. He’s a stickler about time. If you had a meeting with him in his office, you go early and you sit in the waiting room and his assistant comes in—there are two lights on the floor, a red one and a green one—to get you while the red light is on. And she would wait until the second hand on the clock hit the allotted appointment time, then knock on the door. And when the green light went on, she would open the door and let you in.
And meetings: For the top manager meetings, we would all arrive at least 15 minutes early, but nobody would speak. And if they did, it was somber. Everybody’s just tapping away at their computers and he would walk in two minutes before the start of the meeting. He doesn’t say hello, goodbye, nothing. He just walks around the table and sits down in his place. He never carried notes. The guy’s amazing. He had clocks made by Seiko that had world time where their businesses and operations were located mounted on the wall and as the clock hit the planned time, he’d open the meeting. People would make presentations. He would not interrupt, nobody would interrupt. Nobody would ask a question and then when the presentation was over—by the way, you’d better stick to your allotted time and don’t go over—he would say, ‘Slide 22, I have this question. Slide 77, I have that question.’
Wow. Was he taking notes?
No. And he didn’t really foster much discussion and dialogue between the other executives around the table. I mean he was the one asking the questions and he was the one making the decisions, that’s it.
What informed his answers? Something you might tell him wouldn’t change his mind or focus his thinking?
I think that he liked logical thinking and if you had an idea, you’d better have the facts to support it and I found him to be very receptive to well-thought-through arguments, not so much if it was a bullshit idea.
Were you there when Tavares was let go?
I didn’t have much interaction with Tavares. We would meet only at the Alliance managers’ meetings, which didn’t happen all that often. But it was clear that there was tension between the two. Very clear. And shortly before he was let go, we had a meeting in Paris. And Tavares got up and made his speech and if you took what he said, nobody would raise an eye, but if you read between the lines, it was like handing out backhanded compliments. It was clear. And he was then let go soon thereafter. Nobody got the idea that Ghosn was going to go anywhere soon.
What do you think of the prospects for Fiat Chrysler?
I’m not optimistic. I think they’re in a pretty fragile state, with much to mend. The European operations are a mess. The U.S. operations are generating the money now, but if this economy turns and things go south, it’ll change quickly. Strategically, they’re not strong in Asia and I also think they are not well prepared for all of these risks and challenges that lie ahead in terms of new technologies. The long run doesn’t look good.
When you talk about executives you’ve worked with and known in your career so far, who were the really great ones?
It doesn’t mean that I like them all, but they were heavyweight executives who I had the fortune to engage with. Ferdinand Piëch—the guy was impressive. Martin Winterkorn was very different. He was like a sledgehammer. Piëch was much more lethal, but he was like a scalpel. Ghosn was impressive, I would have to say. I can’t deny that. An executive that I had as a boss and admired for his competency, but also respected as a human being, was Peter [Schwarzenbauer] at Porsche. Today he is with BMW and heads up Mini and motorcycles.
What about Andy Palmer, who’s now leading Aston Martin?
I wouldn’t quite rate him that high but he’s no less admirable. Andy was massively tenacious. Perhaps my judgment is a little bit clouded by I didn’t always think he engaged the Japanese as constructively as he should.
He was too adversarial.
Yes, in my experience you have to win the Japanese over. You can’t beat them over the head. And I thought he would’ve been more successful had he done that.
What does the future hold for you? What would be your dream gig going forward?
I don’t mind admitting that my departure from GM was a big setback for me personally and professionally, and unanticipated. From my point of view, I had done everything that I said I would, and the business plan was on track, the quality development was on track, the financial performance was on track, the portfolio plan, all the stuff. But it’s water under the bridge.
Problematically, I would say that my first desire would be to remain in the U.S. If I define the U.S. as sort being either east coast or west coast—I have a kid on either coast, so it doesn’t really matter—it probably is fair to say that I should not be anticipating being invited by Ford or FCA to take a similar role. They probably don’t need me, which means that I need to look at one of the imports. And by definition, if you’re not at the headquarters, you are couple of notches lower on the totem pole. Now that I can live with. I don’t mind. I don’t have to be on the global top management team.
I guess I would look for the ideal job now to be something that is meaningful, that is very much touching product planning, product development, quality, engineering—that side of the equation. I’ve got much more exposure to that progressively as I moved from Audi to Infiniti and finally to Cadillac to where I was in the engine room and I loved it. I’m not an engineer by training, but I was paid a very big compliment one day by an Audi development engineer; we were out testing cars in the middle of the South African desert and sitting at dinner in the evening. He said to me, “So which engineering school did you go to?” That was a compliment, because I could conduct a conversation with these guys on the things that were relevant and not look like a complete idiot. You’d learn things through osmosis.
It might sound a bit odd, but I would really like to have a job that is perhaps primarily built around that area. If I can’t be the corporate leader, that’s okay. But then you get to do something that you like for the last few years of your career.