CHICAGO Richard E. Dauch, 71, co-founder and executive chairman of American Axle & Manufacturing Inc., died Aug. 2, the auto supply company said.
Dauch joined General Motors Corp. as a management trainee in 1964, working at the Flint, Mich., assembly plant. He held several supervisory positions before being named plant manager of Chevrolet Spring & Bumper in Livonia, Mich., in 1973, and later became plant manager of the Detroit gear and axle manufacturing complex.
He left GM in 1976 to join Volkswagen of America, where he was vice president and general manufacturing manager before being promoted to group vice president and gaining a seat on the board of directors for his work on VWs successful launch of vehicle production in the United States.
Dauch joined Chrysler Corp. in 1980, where he led manufacturing initiatives to improve quality, production and labor. His key innovations included three-shift assembly, just-in-time materials management, and sequential production.
"Dick was practicing lean manufacturing and leading the quality revolution years before those terms became part of the business conversation," former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca said in a statement.
Dauch co-founded Detroit-based American Axle & Manufacturing in March 1994 after forming an investment team that purchased GMs Final Drive and Forge Business unit. He was chief executive officer from 1994 to 2012 and president from 1994 to 2000, and had been chairman since 1997.
He received numerous honors during his career, supported the community and education and raised money for charities.
Dauch is survived by his wife, Sandra, two sons, two daughters, 16 grandchildren, two great grandchildren and six siblings.