Best of British: The Brit List 2014

The Brit List 2014
4 Jun, 2014 9:00am

Homegrown talent is shaping the car industry globally, and we reveal 2014’s top 50 British movers and shakers

Welcome to the third annual Auto Express Brit List. Once again, we celebrate the 50 most influential UK players in the global automotive business.

These Brits are making a difference – to the cars we drive, how and where they’re made, and in their design, engineering and presentation. These people include the bosses of national and international companies, engineers, designers, manufacturing experts, sales chiefs and communications specialists, as well as top names from the motorsport industry, where the UK excels.

Our previous Top 50s have created interest, argument and controversy. When drawing up the 2014 league, our elite judging panel paid particular attention to candidates’ performance and achievements in the past 12 months.

There are 16 new entries this year, plus we crown a new number one. We’ve stuck to our previous rule, so past winners – Nissan’s Andy Palmer and BMW’s Ian Robertson – are ineligible. But for the first time in 2014, the Auto Express Brit List embraces chief financial officers – recognising the vital part money men play in the world’s mighty motor makers. And we’re delighted that for the first time the list includes two women who’ve risen to prominence.

When we started the Brit List in 2012, it was intended to show just how important British-born and trained execs, engineers and creatives are in the global motor business. In the past three years, the home-based car industry has enjoyed a remarkable revival. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not all run by foreigners. 

The top 10 Brits working in the car industry

10 - Adrian Hallmark

Jaguar Land Rover – group strategy director

Hallmark, 51, had fewer than three years at the helm of Jag before a revamp put Phil Popham in charge of sales and marketing for both Jag and Land Rover. Hallmark’s new role is to develop JLR’s business strategy, a job for which he is well equipped, having held senior positions at Bentley, Porsche and VW

9 - Ron Dennis

McLaren – chairman McLaren Group & Automotive

After a year in which the heads of McLaren Automotive and the F1 team departed, Dennis, 67, has stepped back into an exec role and initiated a brand-wide reorganisation. The road car side’s gone from strength to strength, with the P1 selling out on launch, but it’s taking longer for the racing team to return to form.

8 - Moray Callum

Ford – vice-president design

While his elder brother Ian, design director of Jaguar, has the higher profile here in the UK, Moray Callum, 55, has been making his way up the Ford corporate ladder. In January this year, he reached the top design job in Ford worldwide, replacing American J Mays. Moray moved to the US in 2006, following a successful spell as Mazda design chief. He was responsible for the look of the new Ford F-series pick-up truck, constructed in aluminium – the latest version of America’s best-selling vehicle.

7 - Phil Popham

Jaguar Land Rover – group marketing director

Popham, 48, has emerged as the first among equals in the JLR executive committee headed by chief executive Ralf Speth. After the Tata takeover in 2008, the former Land Rover managing director was in charge of the Jaguar Land Rover sales network. However, in last year’s reorganisation he was given responsibility for the sales and marketing of both brands.

So what does he put Brits’ success in the car business down to? “Brits travel well – one of the traits of British people is that they appreciate foreign culture and adapt. We tend to bring personality into our cars, too.

“It’s an exciting time to be working for JLR with the new models we have planned,” he says. “And it’s great that when you tell people who you work for, they really want to know more.”

6 - Duncan Aldred

General Motors – vice-president Buick and GMC

A year ago, as chairman and MD of Vauxhall, Aldred, 44, was basking in the success of increasing UK sales and market share for GM, and was also acting sales and marketing chief for Opel in Germany. A move to Detroit’s brought a bigger job as head of sales and marketing for Buick and GMC – with 750,000 annual sales between them.

5 - John Fleming

Ford – vice-president global manufacturing

A former chairman and chief executive of Ford of Europe, Fleming, 63, is in charge of Ford’s manufacturing plants throughout the world these days – 75 in total. He’s also the main board member responsible for labour affairs. It is a big job for Fleming, who started with Ford at the Halewood factory, where he became plant director.

4 - Trevor Mann

Nissan - joint chief operating officer, chief performance officer

Mann, 53, was appointed on 1 January as Nissan’s joint chief operating officer with Andy Palmer, our 2012 Top Brit, and Hiroto Saikawa. He was one of the Sunderland plant’s founding team and became factory director, before managing the supply chain and leading operations in Europe, the Middle East and India. He also heads the Datsun budget brand for emerging markets.

3 - Alan Batey

GM – executive vice-president, president North America

A meteoric rise for Batey, a Brit List 2013 new entry, who with January’s appointment of Mary Barra as GM chief exec was given responsibility for the company’s operations in North America. After apprenticing at Vauxhall, Batey, 50, spent most of his GM career outside the UK. He went to Detroit in 2010 to be sales chief of Chevrolet, for which he now has global responsibility.

2 - Mike Manley

Fiat Chrysler – president and chief executive, Jeep

Sergio Marchionne, the head of Fiat Chrysler, is a notoriously hard taskmaster. He set Manley, the Brit in charge of the Jeep brand, a target of 800,000 annual sales by 2014. This year, the off-road brand will sell more than a million units, so Manley, 50, is the group’s star performer. His success has brought a new goal for Jeep – 1.9 million by 2018 – with the growth expected in South America and Asia, for which US-based Manley also has Chrysler responsibilities.

Number 1: Stephen Odell

Ford – president Europe, Middle East and Africa

While many in our Brit List have a spell with Ford on their CV, Stephen Odell joined the company in 1980 and stayed – although it could have been very different. “I joined on the graduate training scheme as Distribution Assistant B, was shown to a huge office full of people with a big grey desk in it and told that was where I sat,” he tells us. “I’d been at Colgate Palmolive beforehand where I had my own office and a few staff, so I thought I’d made a horrible mistake.”

Thankfully for Ford he decided to stay, and in the 34 years since has lived and worked for Ford in the UK, Germany and four US states, held a senior role with Mazda in Japan and been CEO of Volvo in Gothenburg.

Now our number one Brit is heading up Ford’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. And he hasn’t shied away from tough decisions in some of the toughest times for Ford, dealing with plant closures and delaying the new Mondeo by two years.

That has all helped turn the European operation around: “Our guidance remains that in 2015, with the product we have coming and a moderate improvement in the market, we’ll be in the black,” he says.

Odell puts Brits’ success in the car industry down to a number of things. “Brits certainly over-index,” he says. “It goes back to British culture and our education system. We have a natural curiosity and a desire to learn. Brits are good communicators, but just as importantly, they’re good listeners.”

However, there’s more to be done, with Odell highlighting apprentice schemes as particularly important: “There are things we can learn from outside the UK, especially on apprentice schemes – there are many times more apprentices in Germany than in the UK. In Germany they’re 50 per cent funded by the government. I think we’re getting better, but there’s still work to do.”

So what advice does he have for anyone aspiring to be the number one Brit in the global car business? “It’s simple,” he says. “Believe you can.

“When I started out at Ford I wouldn’t have described myself as a ‘car guy’, but this business and the people get into your blood. I’ve been at it for 34 years and still get up each morning thinking I’ve got a great job to go to.”

Click through to the next page for the full top 50

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I wonder if Stephen Odell is number one because of his superior grasp of management speak. "Brits certainly over index". Do we? What on earth is it?

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