Tom Pappert, former Chrysler chief commercial officer, dies at 82

Tom Pappert, a longtime Chrysler business executive who earned a reputation as a strong advocate for dealerships during and after his tenure, died Monday in suburban Detroit after a three-year battle with cancer.

He was 82 years old.

A Pittsburgh native and graduate of Duquesne University, Pappert joined Chrysler in 1962 as an intern in a regional sales office in his hometown. He spent the first 14 years of his career in the automaker’s regional sales operations, moving with his wife, Joyce, and their young family through the Mid-Atlantic region, then to Florida, in the Midwest, then on the west coast before landing in Detroit in 1976. .

Pappert was one of Chrysler’s few senior executives to stay when Lee Iacocca was recruited to become CEO, and remained until the automaker’s first bankruptcy, in 1979. He became the company’s sales chief. in 1980 and held the position until he retired in 1998.

During his tenure, Pappert focused relentlessly on improving the customer experience and led the development of Chrysler’s Customer One initiative which aimed to change the company’s culture from the bottom up to view of the launch of the company’s LH cabover cars in 1992.

“We were pretty sure we couldn’t sell new cars to new customers using old methods,” Pappert said at the 1994 World Automotive News Congress. “We had a vehicle change coming, and we needed a culture change to go with it.”

He offered dealers lucrative incentives to increase their customer service scores and advocated a team approach between the factory and its dealer network – an approach that did not rely on factory sticks as the minimum liability of dealers. sales.

“When the smoke cleared, he was still there with you,” said dealership John Gunning, then owner of Manassas Dodge in Manassas, Va., and chairman of the Dodge National Dealer Advisory Council. Automotive News after Pappert’s last NADA Dodge dealer meeting in 1998. “Pappert was one of the best dealerships around.”

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