International automotive economist Professor Garel Rhys, CBE, has died.

He was the chairman of the Welsh Automotive Forum, Professor Emeritus and President of the Centre of Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff University and an adviser to Welsh Government on economic and automotive affairs.  

He died in his sleep at his Cardiff home 21 February, a week before his 77th birthday, and he is survived by his wife and three children.

Welsh Automotive Forum chief executive Tim Williams said, “Garel’s death has been a tremendous shock to all in the forum and I know the sadness will be shared throughout the automotive community as we extend our very deepest and sincere condolences to his wife, Mavis, and children Jeremy, Angela and Gillian.”

Garel was born and brought up in the Swansea Valley but earned and enjoyed a distinguished and highly respected position in the global automotive industry so his passing will be felt around the world, where he extensively lectured and spoke at events.

His unrivalled international standing made him the natural and really the only choice to help establish the Welsh Automotive Forum in 1997 and after it was incorporated Garel became Chairman in 2001. He then fought tooth and nail to voice the concerns of the supply chain and automotive industry through some of the toughest times in recent history.

He was a wise counsellor, often taking an alternative view to the popular train of thought on an issue, but he was invariably right in the end. Those who listened to his keynote speeches relished his presentation style of no-nonsense facts blended with that irrepressible Welsh humour and put-downs which made him so commanding and enjoyable.

With his encyclopedic knowledge of the Welsh automotive industry from the dawn of the motor car to the present day, I think it is fair to say we will not see his like again, and he will be sorely missed by hundreds if not thousands whose lives he touched during a very full life.

The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, said, “Professor Garel Rhys was a true public servant and a charismatic ambassador for Wales. He gave unstintingly of his time and expertise to help drive forward economic growth in Wales. Most recently, he played a key role in helping to attract Aston Martin to St Athan.”

Thewesterngroup chairman, Robin Roberts, added, “Garel was a long standing personal friend and immeasurably good, informative and amusing company at any time. He genuinely loved all things motoring and had an enduring personal passion for model buses with a remarkable collection in his study at home, which he relished to show off to visitors, often highlighting his very latest acquisition.

“He attended and addressed a few Western Group events blending fact with fun and could hold an audience on the edges of their seats, and unlike so many public speakers would afterwards relish one-to-one conversations an anecdotes. He will be greatly missed by us all.”

Robin Roberts
Robin Roberts

Robin is the longest serving chairman of The Western Group. He’s been vice chairman or chairman for over ten years and oversees the annual Western Group PR Driving Day each summer assisted by the group committee and supported by group members.

He contributes to a number of outlets in Wales and the UK, including the Driving Force editorial syndication agency feeding the biggest regional news and feature publishers in Britain.

Robin specialises in the Welsh automotive sector and motor related businesses with interests in Wales and publishes which covers news, features, trade and motor sport in Wales.

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