James David Power III is the founder of J.D. Power & Associates, a California-based market research firm and one of the most recognizable names in the industry and to American consumers. Power, 83, recently spoke with Globe correspondent Taryn Luna. Here’s what she found out:
1Power, who goes by Dave, was born and raised in Worcester. The oldest of four children, he went to St. Peter’s High School and graduated from College of the Holy Cross in 1953. He had a newspaper route at 10 years old and cut grass and shoveled snow for his customers. But he also made time for fun.
“My father was a fan of the Boston Red Sox. I spent a lot of time taking the bus from Worcester to Kenmore Square. My uncle would get us tickets to the doubleheaders and we would watch Ted Williams.”
2The Power family likes his name.
“My grandfather was the first James David. My father was James David Jr. I am the third. My son, Jamie, is the fourth, and my grandson is the fifth. “
3Power went into the Coast Guard for a three-year tour after graduating from college. He was stationed on a ship called Eastwind, out of Boston, which made expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic channels. Having spent his entire life in landlocked Worcester, Power had never been on a ship.
“Once you graduate from the officer training school, they give you three choices of locations. I picked Florida, Southern California, and Hawaii. And I ended up on an icebreaker in Boston. It could have had something to do with me barely getting through the course.”
4During his service in the Coast Guard, Power received his first taste of fame. A Walt Disney crew shot a documentary on the Eastwind. The film, “Men Against the Arctic,” won the Academy Award for best short documentary in 1956.
“I was only in the closing scene as a shadow as the sun went down. I was standing watch on the wing of the bridge. There was red sunset in the background. It’s only a shadow. Black against the red sky.”
5After years of working in market research in the automobile industry, Power stepped out on his own and founded J.D. Power & Associates on April Fool’s Day 1968 with his wife, Julie. The associates were his wife and three children.
“We started on the kitchen table with the three kids, a fourth one on the way. My wife did the tabulations for me. My kids folded the questionnaires and cover letters and put a quarter on it using Scotch Tape [an incentive to complete the survey] and stuffed the envelopes. As we grew we called anyone that worked there an associate.”
6Power’s company first gained widespread attention in 1972. His wife discovered a unique O-ring problem in low-mileage Mazda vehicles. He did a study on it and sold it to several carmakers. The studies were confidential, for internal use only, but it leaked it to the press.
“Lo and behold we were in nearly every newspaper in the world and on the radio in 24 hours. The name J.D. Power started to get a lot of recognition.”
7Power has rated thousands of vehicles, from minivans to sports cars. So, what’s his favorite?
“The one I’m driving. A 2003 Mercury Marauder. It’s the police package and looks like a police car. It’s rear-wheel drive. It has exceptional acceleration and steering. I’ve had it for 10 years now, and I’ve only got 50,000 miles on it. I like it because it doesn’t have all those fancy push-buttons and touchscreens and all that. I just get in, turn the key, and drive off.”