DETROIT -- Phil Martens, the former Ford Motor Co. North American product development chief who joined Plastech Engineered Products Inc. last October, has left the supplier.
After just nine months as COO of the Dearborn, Mich., supplier of interior plastic trim, Martens left to pursue other opportunities, say sources close to Martens.
The company has not announced the change publicly. Several attempts since June 30 to reach Martens have been unsuccessful.
Martens, 46, was a highly visible executive at a company known for its privacy. Plastech is owned by CEO Julie Nguyen Brown, a Vietnamese immigrant who has more than tripled the company's sales in the past five years.
At the time Martens joined Plastech, the supplier had launched a $1 billion attempt to acquire a much larger competitor, Collins & Aikman Corp., out of Chapter 11 reorganization proceedings.
That effort fizzled because larger players such as New York investor Wilbur Ross jumped into the bidding process. Since then, Plastech has pursued smaller acquisitions.
At Ford, Martens was viewed as a rising star. He joined the automaker in 1987. In 2005 he helped launch a makeover of Ford's product development system in the image of Ford's Mazda unit, where he spent three years as managing director, product planning, design and product development. Ford's goal was to cut 10 months and as much as 60 percent of costs out of vehicle development.
But with a major restructuring of Ford operations on the horizon, Martens chose to go to Plastech. He brought with him Ford's North American assembly plant boss, Matt DeMars. DeMars is expected to remain with Plastech.
During his brief tenure at Plastech, Martens granted few interviews. One of them occurred in March.
"To be in the supply industry ... you have to have a good team, and Plastech and its management team is one of the best I've ever worked with," Martens told Plastics News, which like Automotive News, is published by Crain Communications Inc.
"That's one of the reasons I came to this company. In this environment, it's not about who you are but how you work as a team. The pace of change has certainly picked up."
When asked what he and DeMars brought to Plastech, Martens said: "You have to look at the way (Brown) built the company, and it's impressive. In 2004, she purchased (plastics supplier) LDM (Technologies Inc.), a huge step forward. In 2005, she recognized that to grow, she needed to bring in some more traditional management."
Plastech ranks No. 99 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers, with estimated worldwide original-equipment automotive parts sales of $1.07 billion in 2005.
Amy Wilson contributed to this report.
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