WASHINGTON—Six years ago Keith Crain, the chairman of Crain Communications Inc. and editor-in-chief of Automotive News, presented Roger Penske with the Washington Auto Show's Lifetime Achievement Award.
On Thursday night the tables were turned when the chairman of Penske Automotive Group made a surprise appearance at the D.C. Convention Center to present the 2018 version of the award to Crain.
"He's bold, brash and tells it like it is," Penske said, referring to his friend of 50 years as a "visionary."
The award is given annually to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the auto industry.
"I have always loved cars and the business of automobiles," Crain said in his acceptance speech. "It is the most exciting industry in the world."
Crain has been an influential figure in the auto industry for nearly 50 years as a reporter, editor and publishing executive. He personally knows many of the movers and shakers in the auto industry. His achievements range from breaking the news of Lee Iacocca's firing by Henry Ford II in 1978 to his role in creating the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in 1989. He continues to write a weekly column for Automotive News.
True to his brash character, Crain noted that the U.S. auto industry "built the worst cars for several decades" and was able to turn things around thanks to government-mandated fuel economy standards and the computer, which "finally allowed them to figure out how to make cars and engines that the public liked and worked."
Today, Crain Communications is one of the largest privately held media companies, with offices in 13 locations around the world, producing 54 different publications with 880 employees, including Rubber & Plastics News.
Crain is a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame and a member of the Automotive Hall of Fame. He attended Northwestern University, moved to Detroit to become publisher and editorial director of Automotive News in 1971 when the then-46-year-old paper was purchased by Crain Communications.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder praised Crain as a community builder, entrepreneur and "one of the finest journalists in the world."