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A Tribute to Mr. James G. O’Connor

Kt Mr O

First, I want to state that while I have the great honor of leading our automotive team, there are so many great teammates all over the organization and world that make up the heart and soul of the practice. That being said, the one person that I will call out is my mentor and bonus dad, James G. O’Connor (Mr. O).

Mr. O spent his entire 42-year career at Ford Motor Company and held many leadership positions such as President of Lincoln, President of Ford Motor Company, and Group Vice President of Sales and Marketing.  Mr. O loved Ford and still loves Ford, even after being retired for nearly twenty years.

Mr. O is still connected with past and present Ford executives and serves as Chairman of Kelly Ford, where he is also a minority owner.  Mr. O is proud of what we are building at Perficient and is impressed by our global automotive practice.  I have come to love the advice he offers and our conversations about the industry at large, specifically the automotive dealers and the huge amount of opportunity in the industry.

Wisdom from A Legendary Leader

Our relationship is full of OEM talk and what the latest challenges for dealers are today.  I get the benefit of pushing my ideas and solutions to Mr. O for his feedback and guidance.  I love our discussions around the industry priorities today such as innovation, sustainability, connected, autonomous vehicles, and digital-first. Having access to a top executive from a major OEM is priceless and really helps my thought leadership and writing.  However, even better than having this unofficial adviser to our global automotive practice is having him in my life.

Mr. O is a big-time “one team, one mission” type of person. Because of our shared love of service to others, Mr. O invited me to hear Alan Mullaly speak. It was such an honor to meet Alan and discuss the automotive industry and the challenges around building world-class vehicles and systems.

The one thing that I think is helpful about our relationship is the discussions around the complexities in automotive from more than just a single lens of OEMs – it is important to look at the entire industry, which includes dealers, suppliers, and consumers. This is more important than ever in the age of EV transition, which demands that the industry open to collaborating beyond its traditional borders as well – needing public sector, infrastructure, and more to chime in.

Mr. O told me that as much as he loved his time in the automotive industry and all the records they set for sales and global expansion, he still believes the industry today has so much more potential. He believes we need to get back to consumer choice regarding ICE, EV, and Hybrid.  He also thinks that the heritage OEMs have a sustainable competitive advantage in manufacturing, and they should leverage emerging technology like AI to make those shop floors as efficient as possible.  Further, he also thinks that OEMs need to offer fewer trim lines, as the variety is causing too much complexity in manufacturing without offering a return on investment.

Lastly, like me, Mr. O believes deeply in dealer networks. He agrees that they must be less high-pressure sales-focused and instead focus on service and customer experiences.  However, the dealer network allows heritage OEMs to offer great service to vehicles, sell OEM parts, and offer experiences like test drives and mobility, all of which are important to consumers.

Let’s Keep Raising the Bar for Automotive

Thank you to Mr. O for believing in me and supporting our effort at Perficient. I know we are doing great things Mr. O sets high bars for everyone he works with, and those bars are even higher for me as his son-in-law. He pushes me and holds me accountable, something I love him dearly for and will always appreciate.

If you are just as passionate about close connections and deep discussions about the automotive industry, please reach out to our team or sign up for one of our events so that we can connect.

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Keith Tomatore

A long-time senior executive in the auto industry who has held the position of SVP, Retail Marketing at Global Team Blue (GTB, a WPP Company) on the Ford Retail Business. In this role, Keith worked with the Ford Dealer Associations across the country to help them with their Precision Marketing and digital efforts. Also, he served as CEO of iFrog Marketing Solutions, which focused on Automotive advertising solutions for Tier 2 and Tier 3.

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