Doug DelGrosso has been putting together a restructuring strategy since becoming president and COO of Lear Corp. in May.
Lear, of Southfield, Mich., is shaking up its interior trim operation, reducing suppliers and courting new business from the import automakers as it copes with shrinking volumes with traditional Big 3 customers. The seat and interiors maker will give details of its plans on Friday, July 29.
Staff Reporter Greg Bowens spoke with DelGrosso last month.
What is your view of the North American market?
It's still a pretty strong market that sells about 16 million vehicles annually. That is one thing that gets overlooked. We should all be thankful we are working with that kind of volume instead of something dramatically different than what we have experienced not all that long ago.
It's also a particularly challenging market. The challenge for us is that most of our major customers - GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler - are having their issues. And obviously that has a direct impact on us, primarily in volumes.
How have you prepared yourself to lead in this challenging market?
I have been with Lear ever since I graduated from college. Lear has changed over the years. It has been many different companies starting from when it was relatively small to a Tier 1 supplier.
During that time I've had a number of assignments that were either product-based or customer-based. So I understand our products and processes pretty well.
The other side of the equation is that I have had the good fortune to be mentored and developed under some pretty special people in the industry.
Early in my career it was our former chief engineer Randal Murphy. As I moved into more business responsibility, there is a gentleman by the name of (retired group vice president) Jerry Harris, who was very instrumental in the growth of the company. And for the last six to seven years, it has been CEO Robert Rossiter and vice-chairman Jim Vandenberghe.
Which do you enjoy more - operations or engineering?
When it boils right down to it, I like to think of myself as a product guy. That is probably because of my engineering background. I don't consider myself an operations guy, even though I have had plenty of experience in operations. I do consider myself technically competent from a design and development standpoint. That is my strength.
What leadership qualities do you find most important?
It may be corny or traditional, but hard work, honesty and openness. These are important skill sets. You must be able to not only identify a problem, but bring it forward and openly discuss it. You also must have the courage to take action, and be accountable and responsible for those actions.
The environment for suppliers is pretty ruthless today. Suppliers say contracts are made and then broken regularly. How do you stay true to your word in this kind of environment?
I don't think it's hard to be honest and straightforward. The automotive business always has been and continues to be pretty challenging. The environment changes. The companies that can change with the environment will be the companies that are successful. The companies that cannot be flexible and find alternatives will struggle. So I don't know if you can boil it down to the renegotiation of contracts.