A Master of Manufacturing

December 20, 2020

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2019 Inductee Richard E. “Dick” Dauch had a long career in automotive manufacturing. He rose through the ranks of GM and became the youngest plant manager at the time. After a short stint at VW, Lee Iacocca appointed Dauch vice president of Diversified Operations at Chrysler Corporation. There he established the “just-in-time” material management systems and the three-shift manufacturing vehicle assembly process. Dauch retired from Chrysler as executive vice president of Worldwide Manufacturing in 1991. In 1994, he purchased five manufacturing plants and founded American Axle & Manufacturing, Inc. (AAM).

Dauch was always destined for manufacturing and production. In a 1986 New York Times article, he was venerated as the “Production Czar” of his time. He was a man with true passion for the industry. His favorite quote was, “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.” 

Workers on AAM’s assembly lines often participated in arm-wrestling matches with Dauch and were impressed that he made a point to remember their names and families. He found value in being close with his employees and the importance of change in order to grow. He also knew that connecting with suppliers was equally important and shared his manufacturing expertise with these companies, helping AAM become a global, multi-billion-dollar company. 

Both the local community and his industry benefited from Dauch’s investments. He built AAM’s headquarters in a corner of Detroit sorely in need of renewal. He was a leading member on multiple boards, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the Manufacturing Institute, the Detroit Economic Club, Detroit Renaissance (later renamed Business Leaders for MI), the Detroit Regional Chamber, and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. He also was a staunch supporter of education. He and his wife, Sandy, created a scholarship for students from Ashland High School, his alma mater, “to encourage students to work hard and better their future.” They also helped establish the Dauch Center for Management and Manufacturing Enterprises at Purdue University, where he earned his undergraduate degree; the Richard E. and Sandra J. Dauch College of Business and Economics at Ashland University (OH), his hometown; and management curricula at Lehigh University (PA) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (where he earned his master’s degree.)  

Dauch will always be remembered as a force in the automotive industry. He was posthumously inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame along with Sergio Marchionne, Patrick Ryan, and Janet Guthrie on July 18, 2019.

Visit Richard E. “Dick” Dauch’s Inductee page.

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