Roger Penske accepts SAE Foundation’s 2019 Industry Leadership Award in Detroit

Roger Penske accepts the SAE Foundation's Industry Leadership Award in Detroit. (Gloria Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

DETROIT — Roger Penske was awarded the 2019 Industry Leadership Award during the SAE Foundation celebration dinner, which was held at the Westin Book-Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit.  Each year, the SAE Foundation recognizes people who have made meaningful contributions during their careers into the mobility industry. 

Mr. Penske’s devotion and passion in the revitalization of Detroit, not only for the city, but also the youth of the city.  The youth are our future.  That’s where STEM education comes in.  STEM provides programs that work to increase the number of students who pursue educational and career paths in STEM-related fields globally.

The host was John McElroy, Autoline, who held a question-and-answer session with Roger Penske. The interview will be featured on his television program in an upcoming episode. Here are the highlights:

“Let’s get to the background of your life.  What inspires you to keep working?” asked McElroy.  “My father told me my mission is about ethics and transparency.  I keep going for the people.”

How do you keep up with your racing and truck rental business?  “What I tried to do is go to the final meeting, but now I want to go to the pre-meeting.  To me, it is customer focused.”

What is your philosophy on how you approach business deals?  “I do deals with a handshake.  We want our people to be heard.  The guy who puts air in the tires is just as important as the driver.”

Why is motor racing so important to your organization?  “It’s part of my life.  When my dad took me to a race, it was exciting.”

Who inspired you and gave you your business side?  “It’s my father.  When I think about all the things about our company, I can thank my dad.”

Autonomous cars, where are they going?  “I probably won’t be alive to see it, but I’ve seen it work.  My concern is, what is the commercial payback?  I think the important thing, as we step back, Uber and Lyft works.”

What are your thoughts on electric cars?  “It is an amazing experience.  Investment is monumental.  As I look at electric vehicles, we still don’t have the range we need.  I am anxious to see the battery cost go down.  Electric vehicles will be a big part of the industry.  It will be driven by government regulation.  It’s going to take time, but we’re going to do it.  In Detroit, we are focused on education.  We got to communicate with the schools to show us where the opportunities are.”

Twenty-five years down the road, what are the opportunities to get into the auto industry?  “I think the industry is exciting.  There is tremendous opportunity with more technology.  We are going to have to invest and it is going to take great people to do this.  I think it is going to be a bright future.”
What are your words of advice to get people in the auto industry?  “Look into apprenticeship and get into these programs.  It is going to be us as companies to recruit and be proactive.”

As the session ended, Penske added that unemployment was 27 percent and now it’s 5 percent.  “In Detroit, you have to make a reservation for dinner.  As we move forward in the city, it is all about education.”

The other 2019 award winners were as follows:  Donald W. Ableson Award for Visionary Leadership went to Karen L. Healy from KLH Communications; Gordon Millar Award went to Borg Warner; DENSO Young Industry Leadership Award went to Brendan J. Chan, Navistar, Inc. and Rohit Jigjinni, Faurecia Automotive Seating LLC.

Before the official program got underway, students from Emerson Elementary-Middle School in Detroit demonstrated their science projects. Those included jet toy cars, a fuel cell challenge, a pinball machine, gravity cruisers and cybersecurity, just to name a few.

The Annual Celebration is a fundraiser for the SAE Foundation. Over 85 percent of ticket sales and donations go directly to benefit SAE’s STEM education programs. Those include A World in Motion for elementary and middle school students and the Collegiate Design Series for students at the university level. Over $60,000 was presented in scholarships for students in STEM programs.

For more information about the SAE Foundation or to make a donation, visit

A student for Emerson Elementary-Middle School in Detroit demonstrates a fuel cell vehicle. (Jerome Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

AmericaJR’s Jerome Rzucidlo speaks with students from Lawrence Technical University. (Gloria Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

Overview of the SAE Foundation’s Annual Celebration at the Westin Book-Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit. (Jerome Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

Brendan J. Chan, Navistar Inc., receiving DENSO Young Industry Leadership Award
          from Bill Foy, Denso (left)

Rohit Jigjinni, Faurecia Automotive Seating LLC, receiving DENSO Young Industry Leadership Award from Bill Foy, Denso (left)

Adam Jeffries from Borg Warner accepting the Gordon Millar Award (Gloria Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

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