Past President Jim Hughes receives a unique global accolade from NGK

NGK has paid a unique global accolade to a man who more than anyone was responsible for building the company’s reputation in the UK.

The leading manufacturer of original equipment (OE) spark plugs, glow plugs and NTK Lambda sensors has honoured FMI Past President Jim Hughes who worked to establish the NGK brand in the UK automotive aftermarket over three decades.

Jim (79) has been presented with a certificate and a trophy marking his long-standing service to the company.

The citation on the certificate – signed by Shinichi Odo, President and Chief Executive Officer, NGK Spark Plug Co. Ltd – reads: ‘We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to you being actively engaged in the sales activity and making a great contribution to NGK globally. We hereby present this certificate in recognition of your dedication and commitment.’

The certificate, together with a trophy featuring an NGK spark plug for Jaguar as its centre-piece – one of the company’s first OE successes – marks the esteem Jim is held in within the company, so much so that in some quarters of the company he is referred to as ‘Grandad’.

The award is even more remarkable when one considers that prior to joining NGK, Jim was known as ‘Mr Champion’ in recognition of his work for the US spark plug brand over a 20-year-period.

Jim recalled “Early in my working life I was told, leadership from within is more valuable than leadership from above. Some of my best creative thinking has come from what I call ‘walking the job’, talking to people at their work station, encouraging them to talk about themselves by showing genuine interest in what they are doing and not being afraid to ask ‘Is there a better way?’

“It is important to seize natural opportunities to lead people in face-to-face interviews; perhaps I am old-fashioned but e-mailing does not communicate and in my humble opinion, never will. The spirit of leadership that I wish to convey depended always on my presence. You can influence others by thinking deeply, speaking gently, laughing often, working hard, giving freely and being kind.”

This philosophy of teamwork was also demonstrated within the automotive aftermarket as a whole with Jim being actively involved in such organisations as the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), where he was Chairman of the Aftermarket Committee, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), where he served as Vice President, and the Fellowship of the Motor Industry (FMI), which recently presented him with a trophy and tankard to mark his service to the organisation of which he served as President and Chairman.

In December 1996, he became an honorary patron of the Automotive Distribution Federation – what is now the Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF) – for outstanding service to the independent automotive aftermarket.

Jim’s long and successful career within NGK saw him become the first non-Japanese employee to be appointed as Managing Director and Chairman in a country outside of Japan and also the growth of the company in the UK from a cramped site in Hendon to spacious headquarters in Hemel Hempstead and a pre-eminent position in the UK market-place.

Although no longer involved in the day-to-day running of the business, enjoying his retirement with wife Sheila in his adopted Norfolk home, Jim is confident NGK Spark Plugs (UK) Ltd is in safe hands under the leadership of new Automotive Director Marko Wowczyna.

He said: “I believe that the ethic of teamwork and team spirit and a sense of direction that I encouraged and Brian Childs took on will continue in the future and that NGK as a manufacturer of high quality products will continue to work closely with its customer base. Nothing succeeds like success. The longer I live the more strongly I respect the people with whom I have been privileged to meet and work with in the global automotive industry.”