DETROIT—John K. Teahen Jr., who chronicled the auto industry's biggest stories and most powerful players for Automotive News with a unique blend of tenacity and grace for more than five decades, died Jan. 8 after a long illness.
Teahan—whose columns have appeared in Rubber & Plastics News, which like Automotive News is published by Crain Communications—had his first byline in the auto industry newspaper on Nov. 14, 1955. His last was posted on the website autonews.com on Sept. 18 of last year, a month after he turned 87.
In between, he enhanced hundreds of columns, news stories and editorials with a peerless writing touch, mentored generations of reporters and editors and provided valuable perspective on the industry's triumphs and failures.
He created what have become staples of industry scorekeeping, including an annual dealer census and tallies of auto makers' sales per dealership.
And he enlivened the Automotive News newsroom with barbed comments about such things as recalcitrant computers and auto makers that failed to see the folly of abandoning cars in favor of SUVs.
To his colleagues he was the ever-gracious gentleman, always ready with kind words delivered with the elegant Teahen touch. To a favorite editor temporarily away from the office, he wrote: "I await the day that you are again the brow-beating dominatrix we all love."
For her help in his epic battles with "the abomination" -- the newspaper's computer system -- he annually awarded her a box of premium chocolates.