No. 1006
July 24, 2019

About The Autoextremist

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. The news that Carlos Ghosn, the all-knowing and all-seeing leader of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, would be fired from his position for underreporting income and misusing company assets – to the tune of millions of dollars – and that he had been arrested by Japanese authorities, came as a complete shock to the business this morning. A board member – Greg Kelly – who is said to have also been deeply involved in the scheme, has also been fired, according to reports from Automotive News and Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper. 

But perhaps “complete shock” isn’t really accurate, certainly not as far as I’m concerned. Having been around high-level auto executives since childhood, I have been exposed to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (aka the Unctuous Pricks) when it comes to auto executives and the auto executive mindset. 

The good ones share similar traits: A steady brilliance, clear thinking, the ability to listen, vision, a focused consistency, and the ability to stay ahead of the curve by grasping the details while keeping the Big Picture in mind. These executives lead with clear purpose and an unwavering drive, and their stellar example results in the ability to inspire and get the best out of people. It sounds easy, but it definitely isn’t because the truly good ones only come along once in a while.

The opposite end of the spectrum, remarkably enough, is not all that far from the good side. In fact, the executives on the “ugly” side of the spectrum share many of the same “good” traits. And that's why these executives are the most dangerous, because they lull people into thinking that they are something that they are most definitely not. These executives are usually diploma-carrying graduates of Unctuous Prick University and they mix a particularly nasty cocktail for themselves every morning made up of one-part arrogance and one-part hubris. 

And these executives, if you pay attention, are easy to spot. They thrive on the notion that they are a Master of the Universe, that they harbor a kaleidoscope of gifts that make them the smartest guy or girl in the room – any room. They love to create a legendary aura for themselves, carefully crafted by their PR minions and then disseminated to the press in drips and drabs, so that the media can dutifully report details as scoops to help manufacture the legend. 

You should be familiar with this by now, as recent leaders both within and outside this industry have been a party to it: The incredible schedules. The intensive, long hours. The ability to multitask on a scale that’s beyond mere mortals. The need for little sleep. The behind-the-scenes berating and verbal abuse of direct reports. And the slow but steady belief in their burgeoning press clippings, which results in a suffocating arrogance that permeates everything with its stench.

That these executives eventually become toxic and overbearing is usually The End Game for their respective companies. The domination of all things with impunity by these “ugly” executives becomes an extreme liability because they inject themselves into every facet of the enterprise, leaving these companies with little or no recourse to do anything about it.

I heard the same stories and witnessed the same behavior with the former CEO of FCA, obviously. But Ghosn has always been a particularly hard case, hoodwinking his fellow Japanese and French executives into believing that perhaps he did really walk on water, and that to have the temerity to question him usually led to an executive’s swift demise. 

I saw through his act almost from Day One, and I winced every time I read another glowing review about the “brilliant” Ghosn. And it was all there too. The incomprehensible schedule. The almost incomprehensible depth and breadth of knowledge. The ability to keep multiple balls in the air that would flummox mere mortal executives. The carefully crafted aura of The Legend. 

And it was all unmitigated bullshit, as the news of the day proves. Ghosn’s arrogance was boundless, and his hubris was uncontrollable. He was just the latest in a long line of Unctuous Pricks in this business who was allowed to run roughshod over everyone around him and not only lived to boast about it but thrived on every last morsel of the legend that was created around him. So, of course he skimmed millions, and of course he thought he could get away with it. Because when all was said and done, he was above it all. 

He. Was. Untouchable.

Now, Carlos Ghosn is yet another cautionary tale in a long line of cautionary tales that this business has been subjected to over the decades. It’s a story that has played out time and time again: The arrogance. The hubris. The manufactured aura. And then, the inevitable denouement.

He won’t be missed.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.