Dan Knott, Chrysler Performance and Procurement

Marc Rozman wrote: “Even thought I did not work directly for Dan Knott at any time at Chrysler, he was always approachable and would take the time to not only listen but act on what you may have talked about. Very professional and courteous, something not always seen these days in the big companies.”

Dan Knott, a respected leader at Chrysler who played an integral role in the Viper, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and SRT line, died of cancer in late April of 2012 at the age of 51.

Sergio Marchionne, chairman and CEO Chrysler Group LLC, wrote: “Dan Knott was an inspirational leader, who cared deeply about the company and, most of all, his people. His passion for products shone through, and I will always remember how his child-like smile lit up the room when we talked about vehicles like the Viper or our Jeep brand. He made a huge contribution to Chrysler by improving our relations with suppliers with an approach based on honesty, transparency and accountability. Dan will be missed on a professional basis, and even more on a personal level.”

dan knott

Born in Detroit, Knott went to Michigan State University and graduated with an engineering degree in 1983. His first job was as a fuel systems engineer for American Motors (AMC). He then left to join Bendix as a sales engineer, in 1986; in 1988, he jointed Chrysler as a senior engineer in air/fuel emissions systems. In 1993, as Chrysler was entering its renaissance, he was promoted to Powertrain Product Team Program Management. Three years later, he moved to become senior manager of Jeep development.

In 1999, after three years running Jeep development, Knott was made director of vehicle development, quality, and safety on the small vehicle team; a year later he was made director of chassis systems on the team. In 2002, Knott got his MBA from Michigan State University and was made director of material cost management; later in the year, he was also made director of the new Street and Racing Technology (SRT) team.

Dan Knott obituaryIn 2006, Knott was given a sizeable promotion to vice president of global service for all Chrysler brands; a year later, he was put in charge of product development for core components. Motor Trend put him down as number 23 their Power List of influential automotive industry people.

Just one year after that, in 2008, Knott was put in charge of the Jeep product team and then made vice president of the car/minivan/SRT product team. He was then moved up to head of vehicle engineering for the A and B segments.

In 2009, Knott was given his final promotion and transfer, and was put in charge of Purchasing and Supplier Quality. During the 1990s, Chrysler had gained a reputation for treating suppliers well, and in turn using their ideas to save billions of dollars; under Daimler, these traits had been dropped in favor of short-term cost savings, a method also favored under Cerberus. One of Knott’s jobs was to recover from these devastating decisions.

Sergio Marchionne said, when Knott retired:

Dan Knott’s leadership has been vital in the effort to revitalize Chrysler by fostering a new culture based on a commitment to meritocracy, excellence and accountability. He has done an outstanding job in rehabilitating Chrysler’s relations with suppliers and, in so doing, enhancing our ability to offer more competitive products. I am proud to have worked with Dan in the last three years, during which time he confirmed on every occasion an extreme sense of professionalism and unwavering dedication to the restoration of Chrysler’s credibility. All of us at Chrysler thank him for his many years of dedication to this company and wish him and his family only the best.

Neil De Koker, CEO of the Original Equipment Supplier Association, was quoted by Automotive News as saying, “He's always been totally ethical, totally right in terms of being committed to doing the right thing.” Automotive News had recognized Knott as an “All-Star” for purchasing and credited him with re-creating Chrysler's partnership approach with suppliers. The News noted that Knott had stopped the custom of sudden supplier changes to gain trivial cost savings, and trained his staff to take responsibility and to pay bills quickly; he also met with suppliers on a regular basis.

As part of his work in procurement, Knott worked on increasing opportunities for suppliers owned by women and under-represented minorities; Chrysler annually reviews and acts on how much business its Tier 1 suppliers do with such businesses, and can reduce suppliers’ overall purchasing score by up to 20% if this amount is minimal, putting contracts at risk.

chrysler dan knott with viper

In 2010, Knott was inducted into the Viper Club of America Hall of Fame. Knott finished fourth-in-class at the 2005 Targa Newfoundland Tarmac Rally; his other hobbies included motorcyle riding and wood-working, along with running, fishing, and golf. He served two years as Chair of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council; was the executive sponsor of the Chrysler Native American Employee Resource Group; and co-chaired the Chrysler Diversity Council. Outside Chrysler, he was on the Advisory Board of Focus: HOPE, which is dedicated to resolving economic disparity, inadequate education, racial divisiveness, and hunger, as well as being a member of the board of New Horizons Rehabilitation Services, Inc., which provides vocational training and job placement services for people with disabilities.

Knott's medical retirement was announced on April 13, 2012, he died two weeks later, in his sleep, surrounded by his family. He is survived by his wife, Cindy, his son, Casey, and his daughter, Laura.

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