Blog: Dave LeggettPaul Capella

Dave Leggett | 1 January 2005

I heard over the holiday of the recent death following illness of Paul Capella, an auto industry analyst and former colleague of mine in DRI's Automotive Group (it's now called Global Insight). I was saddened to hear about it - not least because he was only in his early fifties. Paul was a leading character - he and Sanjay Dabysing ran the show - in DRI's automotive forecasting unit back in the early '90s and anyone who had the experience of working with him certainly won't forget it. They just don't make 'em like that any more.

He was a genius (obviously not a term to be banded about lightly) and a perfectionist and he was uncompromising in many, many ways. Things were done from first principles and Paul had an intellect that we all greatly admired, even if he wasn't exactly the best project manager in the world. 

Discussions with Paul were always stimulating - whether concerning the vagaries of Italian cars, politics in Turin, the technicalities of modelling new car demand, or trends in European freight distribution and their implications for the heavy duty truck industry.  He knew what he was talking about and never cut corners if he could possibly help it. But there was an intellectual honesty and rigour about Paul's approach that is all too rare these days. And he had a dry sense of humour that was almost undetectable at times - earning him the slightly tongue-in-cheek sobriquet, 'Tarby'.

If you had a problem, Paul would unfailingly try and help you out, just dropping whatever else he was doing.

I last spoke to Paul quite a while back - he had left DRI, moved with his family from London to the country, and was occasionally freelancing - when I spoke to him about the possibility of writing for just-auto. He was pretty keen but, for various reasons, it never happened. Pity. That would have been great to see.

Paul was one of those guys who gave it to you straight - unless he was making excuses for late delivery, when he could be extremely creative (Harold Krivan, ex-Rockwell and now at JD Power, knows what I am talking about). Hey, no-one's perfect - some people said he needed better 'handling' by top management, but telling Paul how to behave would have been daunting to anyone. He carved out a niche as the genius eccentric in the corner office. Normal rules of behaviour didn't apply and that seemed fair enough because you couldn't get Paul's insights anywhere else.

I remember him upsetting McGraw-Hill's top brass (DRI was part of publishing giant McGraw-Hill at one time) at one of those corporate flag-waving occasions that he detested. During Q&A following what was supposed to be a rousing and inspirational speech by Harold McGraw the third (or something like that) Paul's hand went up. We knew what to expect. This wouldn't be a gentle ball to be gratefully smashed for six. He duly asked a very pertinent question that no-one else, including me, had the balls to ask. It drew gasps. Paul was lucid and controlled, cutting right through the corporate BS we'd just been subjected to. That was Paul all over: just honest and never a very good politician.

I can see him now, slightly grinning in his tweed jacket as he enters into the glass-sided atrium lift at Wimbledon Bridge House (London home of DRI), car magazines stuffed under one arm and on his way for lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant, 'La Dolce Vita'. It was a place he frequented often. RIP Tarby.


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