DETROIT - In nine years at BorgWarner Inc., John Fiedler shifted the maker of engine and drivetrain components into a higher gear - even though it meant getting out of the manual transmission business.
On Feb. 5, a day after the Chicago supplier reported record 2002 sales and profits, Fiedler, 64, gave up the CEO title, although he remains chairman until he retires.
When Fiedler turns 65 on May 22 and his contract expires, he is expected to hand over full responsibility to new CEO Timothy Manganello, 53.
The transfer of power comes as BorgWarner enjoys Wall Street's applause while much of the North American industry suffers profitless prosperity. BorgWarner shares are trading at about $53 and have regularly outperformed the Dow Jones Auto Parts Index over the past five years.
Fiedler's vision and quick action led BorgWarner to bet big and early on technology, which allowed the company to ride the boom of four-wheel-drive systems, and demand for fuel economy, emission control and safety products. He diversified the company's business beyond North America, and now Peugeot, Honda, Renault, Hyundai and Volkswagen are BorgWarner's fastest growing customers.
"As a growth story, BorgWarner is one of our favorites," says analyst David Leiker of Robert W. Baird & Co. in Milwaukee.
That growth story required wrenching decisions by Fiedler. He sold BorgWarner's manual transmission business in 1997 - a product line that harkened back to the company's origins in 1909 - to reinvest in faster-growing businesses.