The Western Group of Motoring writers, scores of other journalists and the global automotive community has lost one of its greatest champions with the unexpected death of Prof Garel Rhys.
It says a lot for any individual if they are known around the world by their first name and Garel’s reputation and the respect in which he was held assured him of this distinction.
Talk to journalists or motor industry bosses and they all knew of the man who stepped out of the Swansea Valley to tour the world and air his carefully considered views to economics & business students as well as the heads of car companies and political decision makers.
His opinions were sought on a wide range of issues which directly or indirectly impacted on the automotive industry, country’s economies, and particularly the supplier industry which he always championed.
With roots firmly in Wales, the flowering of his knowledge spread around the world through the global media and he never turned down a chance to give his views on any subject raised by a journalist’s call to his home outside Cardiff.
Often he would using his immense accumulated factual knowledge and experience take a seemingly opposite view to economists and analysts who operated from plush offices in business capitals. With remarkable accuracy he predicted both the beginning and substantial end of the last global economic recession while pundits got it spectacularly wrong.
Garel was always in demand to address conferences and networking events where he invariably over-ran his allotted time by 100%, but he was so informative and fun to listen to that no one minded, unless you were the speaker who had to follow that.
An unfortunate speaker at a recent event I attended got his facts wrong and while no-one else noticed he gazed down at Garel directly infront of him and visibly shaking his head in disbelief, which was really off-putting.
His occasionally controversial comments were not liked by some in the industry who had eyes on shareholders and bonuses, political votes or their own credibility, but he stuck to his guns and was invariably right.
On a number of occasions he would privately brief car company leaders and politicians on economic situations and these never reached the public domain.
Socially he would be a wonderful companion on a long car journey or enjoying the hospitality at a Wales football game where some really unlikely facts he would delight in bringing up to inform and amuse anyone who listened over a glass or three of his favourite red wine.
The English merited a different approach to his remarks and usually sprinkled with a put-down. All very amusing, unless of course you happened to be born the other side of Offa’s Dyke.
A few knew of his immense collection of model buses and commercial vehicles at his home and if you let him, Garel would tell you the background story to each of the real vehicles they represented. His breadth of knowledge was outstanding.
I think it’s fair to say we will never see his like again and personally I value every minute I spent with Garel.
Planning for DD2017 is well underway and we hope to shortly launch this year’s dedicated website for registration.
In keeping with tradition, the day will be all about driving products and both the PR industry and group members will be able to sample the latest models.This year we will be inviting manufacturers to bring along their commercial vehicles as well as this is a growing and important sector for more and more. For now, make sure you mark 7 June in diaries for DD2017 at Castle Combe.
Robin Roberts | Chairman WGMW