meet him. He was known to be one of the rare auto executives who maintained a “double-booked” schedule but never shunned a visitor. Bob was known as the “driver,” but he never sought the limelight. He always deferred to the team, to his fellow engineers, to manufacturing engineers, or to sales executives to be the center of attention.
When GM introduced the X car in the 1980s in Phoenix, Bob was tapped to be the lead GM vice president to introduce the vehicle as the general manager of Pontiac. The media plan was to have journalists drive cross-country in the new vehicles. Much to the surprise of the GM public relations team, Bob invited himself to go on the ride, something no vice president had done in the past. The journalists were impressed, and Bob’s personal touch paid off because Pontiac received top reviews on the new Phoenix.
When Pontiac introduced the revolutionary Fiero, a two-seat sportscar, GM decided to showcase the actual assembly process by having a simulated assembly line at the Detroit Auto Show. The “stars” of the Pontiac exhibit were actual hourly employees, and the schedule called for a number of GM officers to shake hands together and then reach out to the hourly team. Not Bob. He bypassed the officer group and went directly to the hourly team first; the assembly build was the highest-quality launch in recent memory.
Bob was always in tune with the needs of GM’s people and was one of the most loved and respected members of GM’s management. Bruce MacDonald, Bob’s vice president of communications, noted that Bob’s brilliance was tempered with a kind, gentle leadership style that was always engaging. When Desert Storm started, MacDonald, who was the ranking reserve U.S. Army General at GM, was summoned to Bob’s office and told: “You and your soldiers take care of the war. We will take care of your jobs and your families.” He is greatly missed by all who knew him.
Bob is survived by his wife Pat (nee Patricia Bachman), daughter Barbara, and sons Timothy and Peter.