Ex-Chrysler Executive Plugs In for Second Ac

Ex-Chrysler Executive Plugs In for Second Act

By JIM MOTAVALLI

Once upon a time, when auto executives retired, they actually retired. These days, those who aren’t advising niche sports-car manufacturers are joining upwith electric-vehicle companies.

Eric Ridenour, president and chief executive of UQM Technologies.UQM TechnologiesEric Ridenour, president and chief executive of UQM Technologies.

That’s the path trod by Jim Taylor, who left General Motors to become the chief executive of the E.V. conversion companyAmp Electric Vehicles; Tom Reichenbach, a long-time Ford employee who became chief engineer at Aptera; and Philip Murtaugh, a G.M. veteran who now heads Coda Automotive.

Add to that list the name of Eric Ridenour, who exited Chrysler after a long stay that ended in 2007 following stints as executive vice president for engineering and chief operating officer. Since December, he’s been president and chief executive of UQM Technologies, which makes motors and controllers for E.V.’s from its base in Longmont, Colo.

“I guess you could say I was semiretired because I was doing the consulting thing,” Mr. Ridenour, a Detroit native, said this week in a telephone interview. “But after my second son went off to college, it seemed that it was time to do something new.” Soon after, he heard about the job opening at UQM, and the process moved quickly.

Executives who leave large corporations to move to much smaller companies sometimes feel the pinch of smaller staffs, and Mr. Ridenour is no exception. “I definitely find I have to think about many more things,” he said. And there’s a lot to think about at UQM, as the company transitions from a premium boutique operation that developed E.V. powertrains for single prototypes and small test fleets to a full-scale manufacturer.

“There’s quite a bit to get a handle on, from material flow and back-office ordering to setting up production lines,” said Mr. Ridenour. “It really helps that I’ve been through the launch of lots of vehicles, and I know where the problems can occur. It’s important that when new situations come up, we’ll have the capacity to resolve them.”

UQM is a supplier to Coda, which plans to put its first E.V., a sedan based on a Chinese model, into production late in 2011. It also builds motors and controllers for the test fleet of 70 Saab 9-3 ePower battery cars, as well as for the Audi A1 e-tron concept.

Any of these programs could grow into high-volume operations, Mr. Ridenour said, and should that growth come, UQM is well-positioned, he claimed, with the capacity to produce 40,000 propulsion systems annually. Managing those logistics will surely make for a busy second act for the ex-Chrysler executive.

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