Hands down, the most genial big-time auto exec any of us can remember was Nick Scheele, the Englishman who was Ford's president and COO from 2001 to 2004 and before that led Ford of Europe and Jaguar.
Scheele, who died in 2014, always put a smile on your face. Google Sir Nick, and you find 276 news articles that describe him as "affable." Of course, when you're winsome, you lose some, but Ford executives say Scheele could be tough as nails, too.
And that's probably true for the men and women who top a likability list for automotive CEOs released last week by Owler, a company that collects business data through crowdsourcing. Using a "proprietary favorability algorithm," Owler says it parsed thousands of CEO reviews from its users to create its National CEO Likeability Study.
No. 1 on the list of 22 auto execs was Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson, who is so friendly that when you speak to him, you have to remind yourself that he is head of a global auto manufacturer and not your neighbor. No. 2 was Valeo chief Jacques Aschenbroich.
Also getting top grades for being good-natured were Mary Barra of General Motors, Daimler's Dieter Zetsche, Elon Musk of Tesla and Sergio Marchionne of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, each placing in the top 10.
What's the big deal about likability? Owler says: "There's more transparency, and thus, accountability in the corner office than ever before. Whether it's through the news, social media, or review sites ... the nation's top executives can't seem to escape public scrutiny."