Car Culture

Car Culture

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. announced that Linda Knoll, its chief human resources officer, has elected to retire after nearly three decades of service.

In a distinguished career, honed also in the predecessor companies of FCA and at CNH Industrial, Knoll has served in a number of wide-ranging senior leadership roles since first joining the Fiat Group in 1994.

Linda Knol

Knoll is one of the longest-serving members of the company’s Group Executive Council (GEC), which was formed in 2011 as the highest executive decision-making body within FCA, responsible for reviewing the operating performance of the business, making key strategic decisions and sharing best practices, including the development and deployment of key human resources.

FCA will continue to benefit from Knoll’s counsel and experience until the closing of the merger with Peugeot S.A. (Groupe PSA) and the creation of Stellantis, which is expected to take place by the end of the first quarter of 2021.

After her retirement from the company, Knoll will serve as an adviser to EXOR, FCA’s reference shareholder. She will also remain on the Board of Comau as it prepares to become a publicly listed company.

“Linda has been pivotal in strengthening our global Human Resources operations and played a fundamental role in our success,” said Mike Manley, chief executive officer of FCA. “On behalf of all FCA employees and the many colleagues with whom she has worked so closely, I want to express our warm thanks to Linda for her dedication, leadership and tireless service to our company.”

DealerSockethttps, a SaaS provider to the automotive industry, announced the appointment of Byron McDuffee as chief operating officer (COO). The 22-year automotive industry veteran will oversee DealerSocket’s operations, customer success and support, corporate development, strategy, vendor management, and analytics teams.

“Byron is an accomplished auto industry leader, and we are excited to welcome him to DealerSocket and our executive team,” said DealerSocket CEO Sejal Pietrzak. “Byron has strong experience in leading global teams, creating successful growth strategies, optimizing processes, and driving analytics. He has a dealer-first customer service approach and a keen focus on building a strong company culture and positive employee engagement.”

McDuffee previously served as senior vice president and general manager of automotive services at Equifax, where he led and managed all aspects of the automotive business. McDuffee also served in a variety of leadership roles at CDK Global. 

“I’m excited to join DealerSocket, an organization whose goals are so closely aligned with my experience and passion for this great industry,” said McDuffee, who officially joined DealerSocket in November.

AutoNation Inc. announced that its Board of Directors appointed Norman Jenkins to the AutoNation Board, effective Dec. 14. Jenkins will serve as an independent director.

“We are pleased to have Norman join the AutoNation Board,” said Mike Jackson, AutoNation’s chairman and chief executive officer. “We look forward to the experience and insight that he will bring to the Board.”

Jenkins is president and chief executive officer of Capstone Development, a privately held firm he founded in 2009.  Capstone develops and acquires commercial and multi-family real estate, with significant expertise in public-private partnerships and developing hospitality real estate that is generally affiliated with international lodging brands. Prior to launching Capstone, Jenkins was a senior executive and corporate officer of Marriott International Inc. He currently serves on the board of directors of Duke Realty and New Senior Investment Group, and he is a member of the Washington, D.C. Developer Roundtable. and the Howard University Board of Trustees. Jenkins earned a BA in Accounting from Howard University, an MBA from George Washington University and is a certified public accountant.

Alliance Auto Auctions announced earlier this week the promotion of Christina Thomas to general manager of the Alliance Waco location. 

“Once again, we get to see an individual that has worked hard, proven themselves and grown through our ranks to take a step into a bigger leadership role,” said Christopher Dean, COO of Alliance. “We are so excited and proud to announce that Christina Thomas will be our next general manager”.


Thomas started in the auction business in 2005 at ADESA.  She began in Tele-Sales as a temporary employee and worked her way to a permanent position.  She was later promoted to a supervisory role and eventually a tele-sales regional manager.  During her tenure in her supervisory roles, she worked for Tim Adams when he managed both Shreveport and Dallas.    

“I want to point out that Christina was the very first employee that Tim Adams, CEO of Alliance referred, and I hired her in Dallas shortly after I got on the ground,” added Dean.

Thomas said she was “very excited and humbled” for the promotion and opportunity,

“Christina has a tremendous work ethic and is one of the hardest working individuals that you will meet in this industry,”  Adams said. “She is very trustworthy and dedicated and will always go above and beyond and do whatever the company needs and will do it with a great attitude.”

Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) announces executive changes to its operations, effective January 4, 2021.

Toshio Niimi, currently general manager at Toyota Motor Corporation's (TMC) plants in Honsha and Kinuura, Japan, will take on the new role of executive vice president, Production Engineering and Manufacturing, TMNA. Niimi will have responsibilities for all aspects of Toyota's North American production engineering operations and 15 manufacturing vehicle, engine and parts plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, including its joint venture in Alabama that begins production in 2021. He also will serve on TMNA's North American Executive Committee and report to Tetsuo "Ted" Ogawa, president and CEO, TMNA. 

Tadahisa Isono, current executive vice president, production engineering, will return to TMC as chief project leader of the global rebuild plan and sustainable development Goals in the production group. In his new role, Isono will oversee production engineering in advanced R&D and engineering company, Toyota Compact Car Company, Mid-size Vehicle Company, Commercial Vehicle Company, and Lexus International Company.

Lisa Materazzo, who currently serves as vice president of Lexus Marketing, TMNA, is being promoted to group vice president, Toyota Marketing. Materazzo replaces Ed Laukes, who announced his retirement in November. In this role, Materazzo will have responsibilities for all Toyota division market planning, advertising, merchandising, sales promotions, incentives, NASCAR and motorsports, and all social and digital media. She will report to David Christ, group vice president and general manager, Toyota Division, TMNA.

Monte Kaehr

Tom Stricker, who currently serves as vice president of Product Regulatory Affairs, TMNA, is being promoted to group vice president, Sustainability and Regulatory Affairs. In this role, Stricker will have responsibilities for Toyota's U.S.-based environmental sustainability and regulatory affairs, motor vehicle safety regulations and enterprise chemical management. Stricker's team also will provide technical support for Toyota's legislative affairs and media relations.

Monte Kaehr, who currently serves as the Toyota Sienna chief engineer, TMNA, is being promoted to group vice president, advanced mobility research & development. In this role, Kaehr will have responsibilities for technical strategy and planning of advanced mobility solutions. Kaehr joined Toyota in 1992 as a design engineer in Japan and moved to Toyota's North American R&D division in 1998 where he progressed through a series of positions in body engineering and product development. He also previously served as the Toyota Camry chief engineer for the North America region. Kaehr will report to Shinichi Yasui, executive vice president, research & development, TMNA.

Jeff Makarewicz, who currently serves as group vice president, advanced mobility R&D, TMNA, is assigned as group vice president and executive advisor, R&D and Corporate Strategy & Planning. Makarewicz will report to Shinichi Yasui, executive vice president, R&D, TMNA.

Edward Mantey, who currently serves as executive advisor R&D and corporate strategy & planning, TMNA, is retiring after more than 29 years of service, effective January 29, 2021.

John Kennelly, who currently serves as group vice president, One Toyota Competitiveness, TMNA, is retiring after more than 16 years of service, effective January 29, 2021.

Atlis Motor Vehicles (ATLIS), a mobility technology company that is developing an electric work truck and the batteries and motors to drive it, announced the addition of two new members to its leadership team. The Atlis team is comprised of experts in multiple disciplines, such as mathematics, physics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, data sciences, and software development.

The all electric ATLIS XT Pick-Up Truck

Rob Healey, ATLIS’s new general manager of energy, and Jack Al Ferzly, the company’s new lead engineer and project manager for the energy team, each bring more than 20 years of automotive industry and battery technology development experience to ATLIS. Both Healey and Ferzly have worked in a variety of roles at General Motors, BMW, Electrify America, Byton, and A123 Systems.

Mark Hanchett, ATLIS chief executive officer and founder, whose background is in law enforcement technology development, has built a team of experts from a wide range of industries, including automotive, animal medicine, human defense, mining, military, security and defense, transportation and logistics, publishing, real estate, and plastics manufacturing. 

The ATLIS leadership team also includes: President Annie Pratt; Huda Almashhadany, head of battery development; Chris Dawson, head of XP Platform; lead engineer and project manager for the energy team; Rob Mandrov, vice president of operations; Tamica Sears, vice president of talent and Will Rudolphi, director of investor relations.

The 8th annual Vincentric Best Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Value in America Awards were announced this week, with Ford taking home eight model-level awards, more than any other brand. Toyota and Honda also showed strong value in the CPO market by earning four model-level awards each.

Ford’s model-level strength paid strong dividends as the organization also earned two brand-level awards. Ford took home the Best CPO Value Truck brand award for the second time, aided by strong showings from the Ranger and F-350. A best-in-class performance by Ford Vans propelled the brand to the top of the podium and earned Ford the Best CPO Value Van brand award for the fifth consecutive year.

Honda Civic SI Coup

Four-time brand winners included Honda for Best CPO Value Passenger Car brand, aided by a strong performance from the Civic sedan and hatchback; Audi for Best CPO Value Luxury Car, with wins for the TT and S5; and Lincoln for Best CPO Value Luxury SUV & Crossover brand. Toyota was the final brand winner for Best CPO Value SUV & Crossover brand, aided by wins for the C-HR and Highlander Hybrid that led Toyota to its second brand award in this category.

Other brands with multiple model-level victories included Lexus with three awards and Subaru with two awards. Brands with one model-level winner were Dodge, GMC, Infiniti, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Volvo. 

To determine the 2021 Vincentric Best CPO Value in America Award winners, Vincentric conducted a statistical analysis to reveal which vehicles had lower than expected ownership costs given their market segment and price. Vincentric analyzed over 15,000 vehicle configurations using eight cost factors: depreciation, fees & taxes, financing, fuel, insurance, maintenance, opportunity cost, and repairs. The costs were measured after incorporating the specific CPO warranty offered by the manufacturer while also applying mileage requirements necessary to be authorized as an OEM CPO vehicle. Each CPO vehicle was evaluated in all 50 states plus Washington D.C., with the assumption that each would be driven 15,000 miles annually over five years.

CDK Global, a retail automotive technology company, announced that David Hahn has joined the company as chief information security officer (CISO). He will also be a member of the executive leadership team.

In his role, Hahn is responsible for developing a global strategy and executing the roadmap for managing technology risk and information security across the company’s IT, product engineering, and research and development departments.

“Product security and protecting from, detecting and responding to cybersecurity threats are critical components of our plan to innovate, scale and modernize our technologies,” said Mahesh Shah, executive vice president and chief product and technology officer, CDK Global. “David’s diverse experience across information security—including fraud, identity, monitoring, application security and cloud enablement—helps us further ensure a safe, reliable network and suite of products for our customers, while protecting our organization.”

Hahn has a history in information security as a trusted business partner addressing the ever-growing and complex cybersecurity landscape. He recently served as the chief security officer (CSO) for Silicon Valley Bank and focused on information security, physical security and business continuity. Prior to Silicon Valley Bank, Hahn held leadership roles of increasing responsibility with Wells Fargo Bank, Intuit and Hearst Corporation. Hahn holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from San Jose State University and a Master of Business Administration from Golden Gate University.

MotorTrend has named the Ram 1500 TRX its 2021 Truck of the Year®. The Ram 1500 TRX’s win is the third in as many years for the brand with the Ram 1500 earning the 2019 title and Ram Heavy Duty taking top honors for 2020.

Since becoming a standalone brand more than a decade ago, Ram Truck has captured MotorTrend’s Truck of the Year title six times: 2010, 2013, 2014, 2019, 2020 and 2021. In the publication’s 71-year history, there has never been a Truck of the Year winner from the same automaker for three consecutive years.

MotorTrend’s “Of the Year” award recognizes the best vehicles representing exceptional value, superiority in their classes and impact on the automotive scene.

“The all-new 2021 Ram 1500 TRX sets the benchmark for extreme performance pickup trucks and clearly telegraphs the Ram Truck brand’s leadership in the segment,” said Mike Koval Jr., head of Ram Brand.

MotorTrend’s “Of The Year” program is open to any all-new or substantially upgraded 2021 model-year vehicles. Contending vehicles are first put through MotorTrend’s full battery of performance tests. All competitors are then evaluated on three separate courses at a professional automotive test center before finalists are selected.

The winners are not chosen from a direct comparison against other finalists, but instead by how each contender measured against the award’s six criteria: design advancement, engineering excellence, efficiency, safety, value and performance of intended function.

Optimus Ride, developer of autonomous vehicle technology systems, announced Sean Harrington has been appointed as its new CEO and member of its board of directors, effective Nov. 30. Harrington replaces co-founder Ryan Chin, who will remain at the company with responsibility over policy and sustainability initiatives. Under Harrington’s leadership, Optimus Ride will continue advancing itstechnology and plans to scale up its commercial operations.

Harrington brings expertise developing, commercializing and scaling technology solutions, with experience at both startups and large, global corporations. Most recently, Harrington was vice president of City Solutions at Verizon where he was responsible for a broad portfolio of innovative products and services that helped cities increase livability, sustainability, and safety for their citizens. Prior to that, Harrington was chief operating officer and member of the board of directors at Sensity Systems. Harrington has a B.S. in Geomatics Engineering from the University of Calgary and an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

Optimus Ride’s autonomous vehicle technology system, designed to flexibly integrate into existing vehicle platforms, is now deployed at five customer locations around the U.S. and internationally.