Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, was one of the most diligent watchdogs of the automotive industry.
Ditlow wasn't as well-known as his mentor Ralph Nader. But mention Ditlow to an auto executive in the late 1980s, and you'd likely get a scowl if not a lecture about how these safety people were meddling in a business they didn't understand.
Ditlow, who died Nov. 10 at the age of 72, relished his role as a constant thorn in the side of the automotive industry. His trademark grin would fill his face every time he announced a new campaign. I met him in the late 1980s when I was the Automotive News reporter in Washington. The auto industry was combative because of all the new safety legislation and fuel economy measures enacted in Washington.
Back them, Ditlow rode a bicycle and dressed like a scholarship college student on a budget. His thick hair was nearly always tussled, and his office was filled with stacks and piles of thick reports, studies, and drafts of rules and regulations.