2019 Inductee, Richard E. “Dick” Dauch had a long history in the automotive manufacturing industry. He rose through the ranks of GM, and became the youngest plant manager at the time. After a short stint at VW, Dauch was appointed to Vice President of Diversified Operations at Chrysler Corporation with Lee Iacocca. There he established the ‘just-in-time’ material management systems, and the three-shift manufacturing vehicle assembly process. Dauch retired from Chrysler as the Executive Vice President of Worldwide Manufacturing in 1991. By 1994, after purchasing five manufacturing plants, American Axle & Manufacturing, Inc. (AAM) was founded.
Dauch had always been destined for manufacturing and production. In a New York Times article from 1986, he was referred as the ‘Production Czar’ of his time. He was a man with true passion for the industry, always going by his favorite quote, “the person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.” It also helped that his background in college football and growing up on a dairy farm gave him the discipline and knowledge to lead his teams to success.
Often, he could be found arm-wrestling with workers on the assembly lines and made a point to remember their names and families. Dauch found the value in being close with his employees and also found the importance of change in order to grow. As a man who was undoubtedly outspoken, and had a no-nonsense attitude about the business, Dauch was perfect for the task of establishing a major Tier 1 automotive supplier. He also knew that making a connection with his employees was just as important as connecting with his buyers. He brought his expertise and manufacturing knowledge to the supplier and helped it become a global, multi-billion-dollar company.
Along with establishing one of the most successful Tier 1 automotive suppliers in the world, Dauch began to delve into philanthropy and community outreach knowing he had the means to make a difference. Dauch helped clean up the Detroit neighborhood when the AAM began building their headquarters there. He was a leading member on multiple boards of organizations including the National Association of Manufacturers, the Manufacturing Institute, the Detroit Economic Club, the Detroit Renaissance, the Detroit Regional Chamber, and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s Torch Drive.
He also was a staunch supporter of furthering education. He and his wife, Sandy, created a scholarship for the high school the graduated from, encouraging students to work their hardest and better their futures. They were heavily involved in supporting his Alma Mater, Purdue University, and created the Dauch Center for Management or Manufacturing Enterprises and the Dick and Sandy Dauch Alumni Center.
Dauch will always be remembered as a force to be reckoned with in the automotive industry who changed the way Tier 1 suppliers operate. He will be posthumously inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame along with Sergio Marchionne, Pat Ryan, and Janet Guthrie on July 18th at the MGM Grand Detroit.