Donald Hudler obituary (1934 – 2021) – Charlotte, North Carolina
July 20, 1934 – December 9, 2021
Charlotte, North Carolina – Don Hudler has spent his life helping people achieve the American Dream, the part that included a great American automobile. A child of Detroit, he rose through the ranks of General Motors when GM was king. At the start of his career, he sold us the power and prestige of the Cadillacs. Years later, he became president of Saturn, GM’s daring new compact car.
Donald Wiley Hudler passed away on December 9, 2021. Until the day of his death at the age of 87, he was, as his wife put it so simply and powerfully, “a real car guy”.
Don was born in Detroit on July 20, 1934, with his twin brother, Ron, son of Fred and Myrtle Hudler. The dye was poured early. His father worked for GM, moving the family to Ohio during World War II when he was assigned to oversee a factory that made military vehicles. Don and Ron attended Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, where Don did track and field and belonged to Sigma Phi Epsilon. The brothers shared a Cadillac on campus, although their friends believed each had their own because no one could tell the Hudler boys apart. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration in 1956, Don started working for GM.
In a 43-year career, nothing has stopped him.
He has held several key positions at GM, starting with Cadillac, including that of National Director of Merchandising and Marketing. He spent three years in Madrid, Spain, as Regional Marketing Director in charge of Belgium, France, Italy and Spain. When GM created the Saturn Corp. in 1985 for the compact car market, Don sculpted the company’s marketing effort which emphasized value, reliability and customer service. He was president of Saturn from 1995 to 1999. In many ways he became the face of innovation for the world’s largest automaker. Six-foot-four, with long silver hair and an air of quiet confidence, he was the man for the job. Don was also vice president of GM.
He wasn’t in the accolades, just the accomplishments. He said, “Clever peacocks don’t fan their feathers until they’re on top of the hill.” No wonder his colleagues considered him a game changer. Don was also known for his hard work, fairness and generosity.
Even his personal life has been enriched by GM. Dannielle Colliver worked at an advertising agency in Detroit that managed the Cadillac account. This is how she met Don. Dannielle then became Director of Advertising for Chevrolet. They married in 1993 and moved to Charlotte in 1999 after her retirement from GM. Don pursued his automotive interests by owning Saturn dealers in Dallas and Houston and later Cadillac and Hyundai dealers in Houston.
Don is survived by his wife, Dannielle Colliver-Hudler, and stepdaughter, Victoria (Robyn) Colliver, both of Charlotte.
A private memorial service is planned.
A donation in his honor can be made to the Scholarship Fund at Ohio Wesleyan University, 61 S. Sandusky St., Delaware, Ohio 43015 (www.owu.edu/donner). Half of the funds will go to female students. While at GM, he helped promote scholarships as well as blood drives and organ transplant programs. He has also served on the boards of Coachmen Industries, Saab and Compaq Corp.
The family are grateful for the care and kindness shown by everyone at Sharon Towers, where Don was a patient at the health center.
Don Hudler was a man of substance, a leader in a big American industry during those glory years when your dad (or mom) pulling into the driveway with a new GM car was the stuff of dreams come true.
He was also a man of style. Don has found the time to indulge his love of travel. Before his illness, he would sit on the patio of their house in Charlotte, cigar in one hand, glass of wine in the other, their Cadillac in the garage. Life was good.
Arrangements are made at the Kenneth W. Poe Funeral and Cremation Service, 1321 Berkeley Ave., Charlotte, NC; 28204 (704) 641-7606. Online condolences can be shared on www.kennethpoeservices.com.
Posted by Charlotte Observer on December 19, 2021.