John K. Teahan Jr.

numbers cruncher for the Automotive News 

John Teahen Jr.

He is, his admirers say, the consummate numbers cruncher. For more than five decades, Automotive News Senior Editor John K. (Jack) Teahen Jr. has understood that news is not only who, what, where, when, why and how — but how much.

Edward Lapham, executive editor of Automotive News, salutes Teahen’s ability to crunch data to support the facts and hard points vital to good business journalism. He invented the American car dealer census with numbers so accurate a legal suit filed by the old Chrysler Corp. couldn’t touch him. Case dismissed.

“Much more than that, he was the editor, more than any other, who made sure everything was right, from facts collected by our reporters to the way commas and apostrophes were used,” says Richard A. Wright, associate professor of journalism at Wayne State University and one of Teahen’s previous employees.

“His work was so highly respected that the auto companies would call Automotive News for his price figures . . . a truly occult effort.” Numbers reveal patterns that become page one stories when examined properly, notes Peter Brown, editorial director and associate publisher of Automotive News.

“While automakers typically don’t announce price hikes, Jack smokes them out. Better, he devised a system of sales-weighting that puts increases in vehicle prices into context within the brand,” Brown says. “Jack easily wears his expertise on all things automotive and his passion for understanding them, especially by the numbers.” He turns out op-eds, an occasional editorial and his popular SalesTales column while sharing knowledge with the staff.

At 80, Teahen’s work ethic assures his arrival on time for work three days a week. As a mark of his character, Lapham notes, he endowed a $100,000 scholarship in communications at his alma mater, the University of Detroit Mercy.

Along with his car career, Teahen played statistician for the Detroit Lions for 53 years.


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