DETROIT — Richard E. Dauch didn't let the bankruptcy of Dana Corp. get in the way of years of rivalry.
Dauch, CEO of American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc., has quietly cherry-picked more than two dozen of Dana's best and brightest business and technical people, a former Dana executive says.
This summer, Dauch raised the ante by opening a product development office in Dana's back yard.
Spokeswoman Renee Rogers says American Axle does not target rivals. "We simply hire the best people from anywhere in the world."
Dana has struggled for 21 months to emerge from bankruptcy reorganization. The Toledo, Ohio, driveline supplier is expected to leave Chapter 11 by the end of January as a public company hungry for new axle business. That could heighten the rivalry that began in 1994 when American Axle was formed from castoff General Motors plants. Since then the two companies have fought primarily over Chrysler LLC business — and Dana has gotten the short end of the stick.
Dauch, a former fullback with Purdue University's football team, employs a straight-up-the-middle attack on competitors. He went directly at Dana's talent base.
Among those raided was Alberto Satin, the general manager of a Dana South American unit. He was hired away several years ago and now is an American Axle vice president.
Gordon Hunt, a product development engineer, was hired away a year ago to help staff Dauch's Detroit operations.
In July, Dauch struck again.
This time he made a strategic move into Dana territory by opening an engineering office in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Dana was consolidating its Fort Wayne engineering group in suburban Toledo, and Dauch staffed his new office with five product application engineers who did not want to leave Fort Wayne.
Fort Wayne is a key Dana manufacturing hub. It builds light-truck axles and related drivetrain parts. Both Toyota Motor Corp. and GM operate light-truck assembly plants in Indiana.
"The goal of that move," says the former Dana manager, "was to build business for American Axle in an area long dominated by Dana."