Few folks took notice of Carlos Tavares when Carlos Ghosn sent him to Nashville to run the entire Western Hemisphere for Nissan Motor Co.
Tavares did well enough to be recalled to France to help Ghosn. But they had a falling out and Tavares found himself unemployed.
It didn't take long, though, for the automotive ugly duckling of Europe, PSA, to snatch up Tavares as CEO.
What he did to turn around PSA, a combination of a few struggling brands, was nothing short of remarkable. He transformed PSA into a powerhouse and the icing on the cake was the planned purchase of General Motors' European assets. GM was looking for a way to get rid of Opel and Vauxhall and all the losses it was incurring every year. PSA was the right buyer.
Just like the bold move two decades ago when Renault bought Nissan and sent Ghosn to run it, PSA saw an opportunity to become a European powerhouse overnight.
To say that Tavares has surprised everyone would be an understatement.
PSA is going to become the second-largest automaker in Europe, passing Tavares' old boss at Renault.
Tavares has his work cut out for himself and PSA. He has brought a lot of challenges and pension debt to PSA.
It will be fascinating to watch what becomes of PSA. Tavares has a cautious, long-term plan to return to the United States. He will start with mobility services, then with cars. Peugeot retreated from the U.S. in 1991. It was never a success. But Tavares has rich experience here, and he's unlikely to make the same mistakes Peugeot made decades ago.
Few executives in any industry can single-handedly turn around a company. Ghosn did it with Renault and Nissan, and now is working on Mitsubishi. And certainly Alan Mulally led the turnaround at Ford.
It is way too soon to decide whether or not Tavares is going to be able to pull it off with his new acquisition in Europe, but don't bet against him.
PSA has made a very bold move to become a powerhouse in the automobile industry.
Tavares is a bold leader. It will be very interesting to watch PSA. I don't think he is finished.