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When Ford and GM Wouldn't Listen, J.D. Power Turned to Toyota

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- Like any great entrepreneur, Dave Power started with a good idea, got it in front of people who could pay for it and watched it grow.

As a result, the name J.D. Power became a symbol of credible consumer research, not just in the auto industry, where it has long been focused, but also in other businesses. Toyota (TM), the company Power bonded most closely with, succeeded partially as a result. And Ford (F - Get Report) and GM (GM - Get Report), businesses that at first rejected Power, eventually came along.

At 82 year old, Power is a retired eminence today, living the good life in Westlake Village, Calif. Born and raised in Worcester, Mass., he still attends Boston Red Sox games. At his first game, he saw the rookie Ted Williams hit a preseason home run in 1939; most recently, he took half a dozen family members to see the Red Sox play the Dodgers in Los Angeles in August. He and his children run a family foundation that gives to his favorite causes, which include Boston Children's Hospital, the College of the Holy Cross, his alma mater, and other entrepreneurial and medical research causes.

Power reminisces in a recently published book, "Power: How J.D. Power III Became the Auto Industry's Adviser, Confessor, and Eyewitness to History," written by Sarah Morgans and Bill Thorness and published by Fenwick Publishing Group in Bainbridge Island, Wash.

In a recent interview, Power recalled two meetings with Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who is not mentioned in the book. When Mulally joined Ford in 2006, he reached out to many in the industry, including Power, to pick their brains. "He called me, he'd been on the job for six weeks, and he said he'd like me to come by and see him, so I did," Power recalled. "I spent an hour with him, and he was interested in my views of what was going on and so forth. Three years later, I ran into him at an event, and he came up to me, and he said 'Dave, I did everything you told me to do, didn't I?'"

It was a long way from the start of Power's career, when Ford and GM executives wouldn't let him in the door.

"Back in 1968, the automobile industry was very insular and they did their own market research," Power recalled. "They had market research suppliers who did whatever the market research department wanted. The reports were written within the halls of GM or Ford or Chrysler, and that allowed them to bend the story the way they wanted it."

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