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Executive Interview With Jon Douglas, General Manager, MAHLE Clevite

AftermarketNews recently sat down with Jon Douglas, general manager of MAHLE Clevite. A 20-year veteran of the MAHLE Group, Douglas was named GM of Mahle Clevite this past July. In this exclusive interview, Douglas shares some of his short- and long-term goals for the business, talks about the company’s recent consolidation in Michigan and more.

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Today, aftermarketNews sits down with Jon Douglas, general manager of MAHLE Clevite. A 20-year veteran of the MAHLE Group, Douglas was named GM of Mahle Clevite this past July. In this exclusive interview, Douglas shares some of his short- and long-term goals for the business, talks about the company’s recent consolidation in Michigan, and more.
 
While you are certainly not new to the industry or MAHLE, you are new to the role of General Manager for MAHLE Clevite, to which you were appointed in early July. Do you see any other changes in the immediate future?
 
One significant change that we are making is a transition from the MAHLE Clevite Inc. name to MAHLE Aftermarket, effective Jan. 1, 2014. One motivation for this is to fall in line with the rest of the MAHLE Aftermarket divisions around the world. We were the only MAHLE Aftermarket division where "Aftermarket" was not in our name, so now we will align with the rest of the MAHLE Global Aftermarket. Another significant reason for the change is to promote the diversity of our product offering. While Clevite is a strong aftermarket brand, it is synonymous with engine parts, and we have grown substantially from an exclusively engine parts supplier. MAHLE Aftermarket better reflects our position as a manufacturer of not only engine parts, but parts for the engine periphery as well.
 
I want to make clear that this does not in any way affect our brand strategy. We are still focused on growing our strong brand portfolio of Clevite engine bearings and heavy-duty engine parts, Victor Reinz gaskets for the North American Aftermarket and MAHLE Original engine parts, filters, turbochargers and thermostats.
 
Now that you’ve had a couple months to settle in to your new position, what are your short- and long-term goals for the business?
 
Any leader is only as good as the team he has around him. I have been blessed in my tenure at MAHLE to have the very best the industry has to offer around me, and the team in place for MAHLE Aftermarket is no different.
 
One thing that I have learned in the few months I have been on the job is that we have a strong and diverse customer base serving many different segments of the aftermarket. While MAHLE has a very specific global strategy for what the aftermarket should represent to the overall organization, I know that we cannot get there without the continued support of our customers. That is why I am committed through the balance of the year to get out of the office, in the field, and spend time with our customers to find out what makes them tick; what we do well for them, as well as identify the areas where we need to improve for them.
 
Looking further out on the horizon, we know there are many challenges to overcome. As part of a global organization that represents more than $13 billion in annual sales, we need to take advantage of every opportunity to continue to bring that original equipment expertise to the aftermarket. This is such an important time in our company’s history – we must continue to focus on growing our traditional products like engine bearings, gaskets, pistons and rings and filtration products. At the same time, we also have the task of aggressively continuing to expand and grow our aftermarket turbocharger offering; integrating thermostats as a core product through the MAHLE global acquisition of Behr; as well as introducing MAHLE as a leader in the workshop equipment industry through RTI, the newest member of the MAHLE family.
 
You’ve served in a number of diverse positions during your 20 years with MAHLE (production/quality engineer, team coordinator and production manager – automotive, motorsports). Which of these experiences do you feel will help you most in your new leadership position?
 
As general manager, it is imperative that I have a firm grasp of every aspect of our business for us to be successful. For that reason, I am able to draw from all of my past experiences to help me in my current role.
 
Although the bulk of my 20 years has been spent on the OE side of the business, every capacity that I have served in translates very easily to the aftermarket. However, the role of general manager of the MAHLE Motorsport division in North America, my most recent position, best equipped me with tools to succeed in my new position heading up the MAHLE Aftermarket operation in North America.
 
While the Motorsport operation is a global, performance-focused business, the market we served was primarily in the United States. I was able to learn the importance of customer relationships, providing quality products in a timely fashion, as well as the role of the technician in the distribution chain. Without that individual asking for our parts by name, we do not have to worry about the other facets of the business because everything else will perish.
 
Around the same time you were appointed to your new role, the company consolidated its Michigan operations and moved into a new headquarters location in Farmington Hills. What benefits has the company experienced from these moves?
 
While accepting this new position with MAHLE Aftermarket was very exciting and new for me personally, from the organizational perspective, the move into the MAHLE North American Headquarters in Farmington Hills was equally exciting for the organization.
 
A core strength for MAHLE has always been serving the needs of the customer, and we were able to do this just fine from the Aftermarket Headquarters in Ann Arbor. Product management, finance, sales and marketing were always together under one roof; however, consolidating these functions under one roof with the rest of the MAHLE family means even more positive things for us and our channel partners.
 
Certainly, there is a morale lift for our employees moving into a first rate facility that is focused on advancing technology in the automotive industry. Beyond that, the most important thing is the technical advantages we have already seen from the product side. MAHLE Aftermarket is committed to supplying components that not only feature original equipment form, fit and function in the aftermarket; but also provides insight and opportunity to incorporate state-of-the-art technology into our products.
 
Having the engineers and product experts from the OE side just across the building provides significant advantages for our Aftermarket product management teams … and this is just the beginning.
 
While talking about your goals earlier, you mentioned the integration of RTI. As a predominantly engine parts focused company, how did the acquisition of a workshop equipment manufacturer like RTI fit the MAHLE strategy?
 
MAHLE has a long history of identifying growth markets and pursuing them either through organic growth, or growth by acquisition.
 
We have shown this through our diversification into the development and production of turbochargers for the original equipment and aftermarket, as well as through our new majority ownership stake in Behr. The opportunity to acquire RTI Technologies was the perfect opportunity to enter into the workshop equipment sector, one that has long been a desire for MAHLE at the global level.
 
RTI is second in market share in the A/C service and fluid exchange equipment markets, and the addition of RTI in North America gives us an immediate presence in this channel, and sets the stage for additional growth moving forward. As we continue the integration of RTI, the global capabilities of MAHLE will enable us to take RTI to the next level, and open the door to further expansion into other workshop equipment opportunities.
 
The purchase of RTI is only the first step, albeit an exciting one, but the future growth in this arena is what we are most enthusiastic about moving forward – stay tuned, there is more to come.
 
AAPEX is just around the corner. What are you looking forward to most about the event? What will MAHLE have in store for visitors to your booth?

 
AAPEX is the single biggest event for the North American Aftermarket, and I am really looking forward to participating formally for the first time. In my role with MAHLE Motorsports, I was able to participate in Industry Week from the SEMA side, and able to take in the AAPEX Show as an attendee when time allowed.
 
This year will be much different for me, and I can’t wait. The opportunity to meet with, and interact with so many different customers in one week is one thing that makes AAPEX so great. Combine this with the opportunity to expand my personal network within the aftermarket is another thing that I am really looking forward to. These last few months have been a whirlwind in terms of getting acclimated to my new position, and it will culminate with the non-stop action and excitement of the AAPEX Show.
 
As for attendees visiting Booth No. 3461, the first thing they will notice is the size. We have more than doubled our footprint from years past in an effort to promote the growing diversity in the MAHLE Aftermarket product offering.
 
I touched briefly on our commitment to emerging product lines like turbochargers, thermostats and workshop equipment; while maintaining a focus on the core products that have defined the MAHLE Aftermarket offering for years. The 2013 MAHLE Aftermarket exhibit at AAPEX is laid out in a manner focusing on this concept.
 
We have essentially split the booth in two in order to provide equal focus on all aspects of our overall product mix. Half of the booth features our full range of engine parts for the light vehicle, heavy-duty and performance markets. On the other side of the aisle is an equally prominent display of parts and shop equipment more suited to the traditional distribution market – including the addition of the RTI workshop equipment units into the MAHLE Aftermarket offering.
 
The exhibit also contains three private meeting rooms, and I am really looking forward to spending time on the show floor, as well as in these rooms getting to know our customers and suppliers, as fostering these relationships will help get us to where we want to be as an organization.
 

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