Erwin Raphael (L), GM Genesis with Caribbean News Now contributor Claudette de la Haye
By Claudette de la Haye
Caribbean News Now contributor
#mediawomanrising #NAIAS #Chrysler #Pacifica #GenesisNAIAS
DETROIT, USA – The talent of Dominica-born Erwin Raphael, general manager of Genesis, is comparable to that of Ralph Gilles, FCA – Head of Global Design. Former colleagues at Chrysler, they remain closely knitted in the automotive industry and the Caribbean Diaspora.
In an in-depth interview with Raphael at the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), I learned to appreciate just how much soul this son of Dominican soil had carved into his childhood upbringing since the age of one year old on St Croix, USVI.
Raphael was born in Roseau, Dominica, in 1966 and immigrated to St Croix at the age of one with his parents. He completed all of his primary education on St Croix; firstly at Eulaie Rivera, then on to Charles H. Emmanuel, transferring to Good Hope, and finally graduating as a proud student of St Dunstan’s Episcopal amongst great students like famed basketball player Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, including Raphael’s classmate Apu Modi, president and CEO, Mars Foods, North America.
Q: So, what made you choose the automotive industry in terms of car design? Who were your mentors and how did they mold you into this behemoth that is able to compete globally?
A: Behemoth is really quite gracious! But I studied engineering and math -- those were my undergraduate degrees. I also studied Economics at the graduate level and still continue to serve at present on the Dean’s Advisory Board for the College of Arts and Science at Ohio State..
But, I always loved cars. I love working with cars. I love tinkering with cars and love driving cars.
So, it was natural for me to move into automotive. First with Toyota and then with Chrysler, which is where I met Ralph Gilles, by the way. I know you spoke with Ralph earlier today! Great guy -- we spent some time working together. And, I’ve been blessed to move over to California with Hyundai and now launching the Genesis brand. So, this is very exciting for us.
Q: So, what you’re really saying is that Genesis is separate in and of itself from Hyundai?
A: Yes, we’ve created an entirely separate division, much like Lexus is a separate division for Toyota. Or Accura is from Honda now, Genesis is its own division and we’re excited about that.
Q: So, moving into the order of doing business. The Caribbean is still getting its act together in terms of being globally competitive, having the mindset, productivity and they’re still trying to balance their trade deficits with the currencies versus imports and exports. Can you tell me what are the quintessential secrets or vital ingredients to become globally competitive in the world as it stands today? And given that the Caribbean is a smaller region in the cogwheel of a bigger economy of the United States?
A: So, that obviously a very broad question. One of the things that I like coming from the Caribbean is that we have all of the accoutrements necessary to do great things; we have great people, we have hard working people, we have a fantastic educational system and if we could just take advantage of those things, that’s what I would say to young people. If we could just advantage of those systems and those great family values, that’s really the foundation. After that, it’s hard work, dedication, delayed gratification. A lot of the times we like to enjoy the fruits of our labour right away but sometimes you have to set something aside to save something for tomorrow and that helps prepare.
And also, great mentors. I grew up with great mentors with people like Eldon Providence, who was a great entrepreneur back home and kept me focused on reaching for the higher star. And, coming to America and meeting people like Ralph Gilles, we had an amazing working relationship and as well as having the Caribbean background was fantastic.
One of my longest serving mentors, Francis Price, an independent businessman, is also a Jamaican and he has mentored me for the last 25 years, so we have really strong good people in the Caribbean. And, that puts us in the position where we don’t have to feel where there isn’t anything in the world we can’t do and if we work hard.
Q: We already know that Genesis is not distributed in the Caribbean but if you had to pick one of your own babies which one would pick here in this illustrious section and where would you drive it?
A: Well, I love the G80 Sport, the red car on the floor. It’s absolutely amazing and the right size so, you feel really good and in control. My favorite island to drive that on is Martinique. I love Martinique. They have fantastic roads, highways and great country roads, some great seaside country driving but, that’s my personal favourite. But, I think that people throughout the Caribbean will enjoy great cars.
Q: where have you seen the industry shift? How has it shifted in terms of the technology for road safety and in terms of the consumer if they were to purchase your products and take them back home to the Caribbean? Where has the industry shifted in the last two years?
A: I would say that there are really two areas; the first is the industry has shifted its safety – advanced passive safety. So, these cars for example have electronic automatic breaking, so if there is a car or an object ahead of you, it will auto-magically stop itself to avoid an accident. The second area is connectivity.
For more of the interview with Erwin and Claudette:
The collaboration of Humvee and VLF has produced the C-Class - X-Series of this Humvee for Commercial/Family use. I pet named this the “Pursuit of the Versute” Truly the largest vehicle at the 2017 NAIAS.
(L-R) John Costin President Humvee, Imports and Exports; Paul Chedid Humvee VP Imports Exports, Pat O’Conner VLF Facilitator and Claudette de la Haye
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