Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

The secret lives of auto executives


Ed Whitacre sneaks off to breakfast at a Detroit greasy spoon. Sergio Marchionne’s attention to detail extends to the condition of his factories’ bathrooms. And Bill Ford helped save his great-grandfather’s company by hocking the blue oval. 

These are just a few of the glimmers of top Detroit auto executives’ lives that you get when you sit down with Ron Gettelfinger, head of the United Auto Workers union. 

Marchionne, the chief executive of Italian automaker Fiat — which pulled Chrysler out of bankruptcy this year, seems to be “extremely respectful” of his workforce, Gettelfinger told the Reuters Autos Summit in Detroit on Tuesday. 

“I know he’s went out into the facilities and one of the things that he did was walk into the restroom to inspect it. Now you don’t normally see that happen,” Gettelfinger said. “But he truly believes in the power of the people, the value they add to the process.”