Brian D. Harlow

Brian D. Harlow

Vice President, Head of NAFTA Manufacturing, Global Head,
Powertrain Manufacturing Engineering
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (retired)
BSCE '78

For his exemplary career that not only brought great personal success, but changed the fortunes of a community and secured jobs for thousands.

A true leader has both the ability to perceive a risk with a high upside and the courage to take it. That is the case for Brian Harlow who, a decade ago, convinced then-CEO for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Sergio Marchionne, to make a significant change in the company’s plans. Harlow persuaded Marchionne to set aside the company’s plan to buy transmissions from Germany in favor of building them internally in the United States.

"This led to the retooling of the four Kokomo, Indiana, facilities, plus the addition of a new plant near Tipton, Indiana,” Harlow says. The huge shift in strategy, which Harlow says was one of his most gratifying professional achievements, infused nearly $2 billion into the economy and expanded the workforce to more than 8,000 bringing growth and stability to the Kokomo region, his hometown of Tipton and the entire state, as it also benefited FCA.

Harlow was raised on his family’s farm in Tipton, and has been guided by his religious faith all his life. He says his time at Purdue during the mid-1970s opened his eyes culturally as well as educationally, broadening his understanding of the world’s economy and opening his eyes to people from other parts of the world. What he observed from his international classmates, he says, inspired him to work even harder as an engineering student. “Oil supply and demand dominated the news,” Harlow recalls. “I was surprised to see students from Middle Eastern countries in my classes. They had dedicated themselves to learn civil engineering to help their countries and families succeed in the oil industry as future engineers. Knowing the importance of oil to the U.S. as well as its overall impact to geopolitical stability, I was not only motivated by these classmates to become an engineer, but to excel in any aspect that depended on me.”

And he has certainly excelled in an automotive industry career that spanned 40 years. As FCA vice president of manufacturing in North America at the time of his 2019 retirement, Harlow was responsible for all assembly, stamping and powertrain manufacturing operations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, with more than 65,000 employees in 36 manufacturing facilities. He also held the global role as head of powertrain manufacturing engineering, leading the launch of new engines and transmissions in Europe, South America and China.

Harlow received the Distinguished DeVoe School of Business Alumni Award from Indiana Wesleyan University, granted to an alumnus who “exhibits excellence in their profession, community, church or alma mater in the spirit of Jesus Christ.” An accomplished pianist, Harlow is active at his church and in the community. His also has served on several boards, including that of the Kokomo Rescue Mission, United Way of Southeast Michigan and IWU, and as a youth sports coach

He advises Purdue students to “maintain a healthy balance between studying and extracurricular activities so that their time can not only be educational, but also culturally enriching.”

Let’s remain open and flexible enough to continually rethink our response, while staying true to our values — a commitment to meritocracy and excellence, the search for and cherishing of change and, most importantly, the clear acknowledgment that we are responsible for our choices.”

Sergio Marchionne, former CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Career Highlights

2014-2019 Vice President, Head of NAFTA Manufacturing, Global Head, Powertrain Manufacturing Engineering, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (retired)
2009-2014 Vice President, Chrysler Powertrain; Global Head, Powertrain Manufacturing Engineering, Chrysler Group LLC
2005-2009 Director of Operations, Transmission and Casting Division, DaimlerChrysler AG, Chrysler LLC (Cerberus Capital Management)
2000-2005 Director, Powertrain Advanced Manufacturing Engineering, DaimlerChrysler AG
1978-2000 Various positions, Production, Maintenance, Quality, Manufacturing Engineering, Operations, Chrysler


1978 BSCE, Purdue University
1998 MS Management, Indiana Wesleyan University
2015 Honorary Doctorate, Indiana Wesleyan University