The Brit List 2015: UK's top car industry execs named

Welcome to the Auto Express Brit List 2015, our fourth annual rundown of the most influential British executives working in the global car industry today.

While the UK car business has rarely been in ruder health with sales and output continuing to rise, there are also more Brits in top jobs in the car industry than ever before. As well as those running the companies, there are designers, engineers, marketeers, financial experts and manufacturing bosses on our list, plus top names from motorsport, where the UK still excels.

• Best new car deals 2015

As in previous years, our team of judges has assessed each individual’s current position and company performance over the past 12 months to come up with our Top 50. And as usual, previous winners Andy Palmer, now at Aston Martin, BMW’s Ian Robertson and Ford’s Steve Odell are all ineligible.

This year the 11 new entries, plus the number of talented people who didn’t make the top 50, show there’s plenty of depth of talent among the Brits. The car industry is working hard to show young people what a great place it can be to build a career – as all those in this year’s Top 50 would no doubt agree.

Scroll down for the top ten in detail, with the full list available on the next page.

10: Paul Willcox

Nissan Europe, chairman

Willcox had a turbulent path to his current job. Nearly two years ago he left Nissan, where he was vice president in charge of European sales, to become VW’s UK managing director. But he’d barely settled into his new office before he was back at Nissan as chairman for Europe. His role is focused on tightening up the brand’s operational performance Continent-wide and on beating rivals from Japan and Asia. He reports to another Brit, chief performance officer Trevor Mann.

9: Kevin Rose

Bentley, sales and marketing director

Rose brings three clear things to Bentley, and they’re things the brand values. For one, he’s overseen a sales drive that has seen the number of Bentleys rolling out of Crewe double. Secondly, VW trusts his judgement on what a Bentley should look like – his insight was pivotal in the SUV being signed off. And thirdly, he brings some British calm to this most British of brands. Rose has worked across the group, but it’s at Bentley that he’s exercising his greatest influence.

8: Linda Jackson

Citroen, CEO

Jackson had only just been promoted into her new job when we put together last year’s list, which is why she was in 39th place. The past 12 months, though, have seen her settle into her new role with aplomb. The C4 Cactus, which was launched just as she started her new job, has delivered awards and publicity. After plenty of poor years for Citroen, she says she now wants the “feelgood factor” to return, and is promising new models, and new ways of paying, too.

7: Adrian Hallmark

JLR, group strategy director

When you’ve enjoyed the sort of success that has come JLR’s way in recent years, the trick is knowing how to keep the momentum going. That’s the challenge Hallmark faces in the coming 12 months. At 52, he’s worked for Porsche, Bentley and VW in the past, but his role now is develop JLR’s strategy for the next few years, including the growing range of models and the question of whether Land Rover can, and should, keep going upmarket.

6: John Fleming

Ford, executive vice president, global manufacturing & labor

A familiar name on this list and a great example of how the industry can allow people to work their way up from shop floor to boardroom. Fleming started as a worker at Halewood but proved an adept leader and progressed from running that plant to running Ford across Europe, before moving to Detroit. He oversees Ford’s manufacturing process all over the world, taking in 75 different factories. Fleming also oversees labour relations – a crucial role for a global manufacturer.

5: Ian Callum

Jaguar, director of design

A storming year for the UK’s best known car designer, and the highest placed one on our list. Callum is the driving force behind Jaguar’s styling, and has been busy dealing with the XE, XF, F-Type and the forthcoming F-Pace – a stellar roster that’s pushed him into our top five. It’s a testament to his success that the acclaim goes beyond his own industry, with Callum winning the UK’s Designer of the Year Award ahead of the boss of international fashion brand Burberry.

4: Trevor Mann

Nissan, chief performance officer

Another to have built a long career with the same company, Mann, 54, has gone from being one of the first employees on the shop floor at Nissan’s Sunderland factory, to running the plant, to more senior management roles. He’s overseen the European operation and now takes on a senior global role – an impressive effort in any car company, but particularly notable at a Japanese firm. He’s been given the intriguing challenge of how to reinvent Datsun in emerging markets.

3: Duncan Aldred

GM, vice president, Buick & GMC

Aldred, 45, has spent his whole career with GM, but it’s not been a quiet life. Although still only in his mid-40s, he’s already done his time as managing director of Vauxhall in the UK, where he revitalised the factories at Ellesmere Port and Luton, and also on mainland Europe, where he got Opel going again. He takes plenty of credit for Vauxhall’s healthy sales in the UK and his reward has been a place at GM’s top table, heading up GMC and Buick in the US.

2. Mike Manley

Jeep, president and CEO

There are few tougher jobs in the car world than running Jeep. Not because it’s struggling, but because you have to answer to formidable Fiat Group chief executive Sergio Marchionne. Last year Marchionne came up with a nice round target for Manley – sell a million Jeeps in 2014. He got across the line (by a margin of 17,000) thanks to increasing sales by a spectacular 39 per cent. Manley has been running Jeep since 2009, and sales have risen each year.

1. Alan Batey

GM, executive vice president, president North America

It’s been a generally pretty horrible year for General Motors, with huge numbers of recalls and evidence that the company had ignored warnings about failing components. For many in the business, it’s been a bruising experience, but for Batey, a former Vauxhall apprentice, it’s been a chance to show that he doesn’t so much cope with problems as thrive under pressure.

As the man in charge of the company’s North American operation, he’s been at the very forefront of the GM recovery and is one of chief executive Mary Barra’s most trusted lieutenants. If things had gone badly over the past 12 months, GM could have collapsed; instead, under Batey’s guidance, the American public has returned to its dealerships to buy GM cars in huge numbers.

That alone is a pretty remarkable feat, with the company expecting 10 million sales in 2015 – which would be a new record. Batey’s responsibilities don’t stop there, though. He’s also global president of the Chevrolet brand, which is proving an international hit.

Its biggest success is the Cruze, which is sold in 115 countries and has so far racked up 3.5 million sales and done two crucial things – sell well in China, and bring in customers who’ve never bought a Chevy before. Batey, a man with more than 30 years on the GM payroll, was also a key figure in Chevrolet’s decision to sponsor Manchester United, bringing the name to football fans around the world. A global decision made by a man with a truly global presence.

Click through to the next page for this year’s top 50, who they are and what they do…

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