2008 Automotive Executive of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to design innovator and racing legend, Carroll Shelby, at the Detroit Athletic Club (DAC) on April 16. The Award is sponsored by DNV Certification and the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG).
During his award acceptance speech, Shelby highlighted his valued partnership with Ford Motor Co. — both past and present. Shelby’s recent collaboration with Ford Motor Co. resurrected the revered Ford Shelby GT500KR, which was revealed at the 2007 New York International Auto Show.
When asked to name his favorite car of all time, Shelby replied, “The next one that we’re building,” showing his focus on the future of automotive design rather than resting on laurels of the past. As to whether or not the industry will see a new Ford Shelby Cobra, Shelby acknowledged great competition and profitability concerns in super cars. But in the same breath, he noted the public’s need to see this kind of car and stated, “We (Ford and Shelby Automobiles) have our plans. I think we’ll get around to it and hopefully not in the too distant future.”
In perhaps one of his more controversial comments, Shelby responded to a question from the audience regarding the future of hybrid vehicles. “Hybrid technology is basically a stop-gap — it’s not the ultimate solution,” he said. “There will never be a Shelby hybrid car.”
When asked to speculate on the automotive industry’s future, Shelby stated, “I have a lot of faith that we, in America, have what it takes. We have to think international[ly] and [I believe] that America is going to come back. The greatest time is now.”
Savoring the moment is first nature to Carroll Shelby since his heart transplant nearly 50 years ago. Shelby’s own cardiac transplant experience led him, in 1991, to start the Carroll Shelby Children’s Foundation(TM), dedicated to providing assistance for acute coronary and kidney care for children in need.
Enthusiasm, motivation and passion define Shelby’s current state of leadership. As advice to current and potential automotive leaders, Shelby recommends, “Follow your passions and you’ll be alright. Do what you want to do. It’s an old story, but it’s so true.”
Event and Honoree History
The Automotive Executive of the Year award has recognized excellence in automotive leadership from OEM executives since 1964, with a list of past winners that includes Jim Press, Bill Ford, Jr., Dieter Zetsche, Rick Wagoner, Henry Ford II, Robert Eaton, Thomas Stallkamp, Roger Smith, Harold E. Poling, Lee Iacocca and John DeLorean.
The Automotive Executive of the Year Award nominating committee is composed of automotive industry media, various industry analysts and automotive supplier CEOs and the award luncheon was attended by over 200 automotive industry leaders.
Shelby’s inspiration and vision have made him the force behind many of the industry’s most beloved automobiles, including the Cobra, Series 1, Ford GT40, Viper, Ford Shelby Mustangs and the Ford GT. In his driving career, he has captured three national sports car championships, earned a spot on the Aston-Martin racing team and set land speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats. In addition, he is the only man to ever win Le Mans as a driver, team owner and manufacturer.
In addition to being named Sports Illustrated’s Driver of the Year in 1956 and 1957, his countless achievements in the motor sports world led to his induction into the Automobile Hall of Fame and the International MotorSports Hall of Fame. In 2006, Motor Trend named Carroll Shelby one of the 50 most important people in the auto industry in its first annual “power list.”
Established in 1864, DNV is an autonomous foundation with 300 offices in more than 100 countries. DNV is a world leader in management system certification to TS 16949, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, and other national and international standards. Other services include training, CE Mark and product certification. Additional information is available at
Founded in 1982, AIAG is a globally recognized organization where OEMs and suppliers unite to address and resolve issues affecting the worldwide automotive supply chain. AIAG’s goals are to reduce cost and complexity through collaboration; improve product quality, health, safety and the environment; and optimize speed to market throughout the supply chain. Headquartered in the metro Detroit area, its more than 1,500 member companies include North American, European and Asia-Pacific OEMs and suppliers to the automotive industry. Additional information is available at