July 20, 1934 – December 9, 2021
Charlotte, North Carolina – Don Hudler spent his life helping people realize the American Dream, which included a great American automobile. As a child of Detroit, he rose to the ranks of General Motors when GM was king. At the beginning of his career he sold us the power and prestige of Cadillacs. Years later, he became president of Saturn, GM’s daring new compact car.
Donald Wiley Hudler left us on December 9th, 2021. Until his death at the age of 87, he was, as his wife put it so simply and powerfully, “a real type of car”.
Don was born in Detroit on July 20, 1934, to his twin brother Ron, the sons of Fred and Myrtle Hudler. The dye was poured early. His father worked for GM and the family moved to Ohio during World War II when he was hired to oversee a factory that made military vehicles. Don and Ron attended Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, where Don directed the career and was part of Sigma Phi Epsilon. The brothers shared a Cadillac on campus, although their friends thought each had their own as no one could tell the Hudler boys apart. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration in 1956, Don began working for GM.
In his 43-year career he was unstoppable.
He has held a number of key positions at GM, starting with Cadillac, including National Merchandising and Marketing Director. He spent three years in Madrid, Spain, as Regional Director of Marketing with responsibility for Belgium, France, Italy and Spain. When GM founded Saturn Corp. in 1985. for the compact car market, Don shaped the company’s marketing efforts that emphasized value, reliability and customer service. From 1995 to 1999 he was President of Saturn. In many ways, he became the face of innovation for the world’s largest automaker. He was six feet tall, with long silver hair and calm self-confidence, and was the right man for the job. Don was also the vice president of GM.
He wasn’t into awards, just achievement. He would say, “Smart peacocks don’t fan their feathers until they’re up on the hill.” No wonder that colleagues thought he was a game changer. Don was also known for his hard work, fairness, and generosity.
GM has also enriched his private life. Dannielle Colliver worked for an advertising agency in Detroit that managed the Cadillac account. That’s how she got to know Don. Dannielle later rose to become Director of Advertising for Chevrolet. They married in 1993 and moved to Charlotte in 1999 after he retired from GM. Don continued his automotive interests by owning Saturn dealerships in Dallas and Houston and later Cadillac and Hyundai dealerships in Houston.
Don leaves behind his wife, Dannielle Colliver-Hudler, and stepdaughter Victoria (Robyn) Colliver, both from Charlotte.
A private memorial ceremony is planned.
In his honor, a donation can be made to the Ohio Wesleyan University Scholarship Fund, 61 S. Sandusky St., Delaware, Ohio 43015 (www.owu.edu/give). Half of the funds are intended for female students. While at GM, he helped promote educational scholarships, as well as blood donation and organ transplant programs. He has also served on the boards of Coachmen Industries, Saab, and Compaq Corp.
The family is grateful for the care and kindness of everyone at Sharon Towers, where Don was patient at the health center.
Don Hudler was a man of substance, a leader in a great American industry in those glorious years when your father (or mother) pulled into the driveway in a new GM car, the stuff that dreams came true.
He was also a man of style. Don found time to indulge his wanderlust. Before his illness he sat on the terrace of her Charlotte house, a cigar in one, a glass of wine in the other, her Cadillac in the garage. Life was good.
The arrangements are in the care of Kenneth W. Poe Funeral & Cremation Service, 1321 Berkeley Ave., Charlotte, NC; 28204 (704) 641-7606. Online condolences can be found at www.kennethpoeservices.com.
Published by Charlotte Observer on December 19, 2021.