Federal-Mogul Corp. is getting a new CEO -- and another makeover.
The company plans to create a separate and independent aftermarket unit that will report directly to the board of directors.
Now that the average U.S. light vehicle is 10.8 years old -- up from 9.7 years in 2006 -- the aftermarket is clearly a growth industry.
The company announced this month that CEO Jose Maria Alapont will retire, clearing the way for Rainer Jueckstock, 52, senior vice president of the company's powertrain energy business unit, to succeed him on April 1.
So Alapont, 61, won't be around to oversee the company's latest reinvention. But he can claim two successful turnarounds at Federal-Mogul: once during the company's bankruptcy and once during the Great Recession.
"We had a strategy that allowed us to cross the desert during the world recession," said Alapont, a former Delphi and Valeo executive. "We crossed that desert twice."
The first crisis came in 2005, when Alapont left his post as CEO of Italian truckmaker Iveco and joined Federal-Mogul.
At the time, Federal-Mogul was still under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It was burdened with asbestos lawsuits, and it had virtually no presence in emerging markets such as China and India.
Alapont closed unprofitable plants, dumped some products and shifted more attention to engine parts.
"We had a lot of effort going into diesel engine components, and we were not focused on gasoline," Alapont recalled. "We changed that strategy and decided to be market leaders in gasoline as well as diesel."
By 2008, the company had emerged from bankruptcy and recorded a profit. But after auto sales collapsed in September 2008, Alapont was forced to launch a second turnaround.
Over the next nine months, he laid off 11,000 of the company's 50,000 workers and continued to shut plants in slow-growth markets.
From 2005 through 2011, the company closed a total of 34 plants in Europe and North America while opening 18 plants in fast-growth regions.
Now, 30 percent of the company's production capacity is in low-cost markets such as China, India, Turkey, Russia and South America -- up from 10 percent in 2005.
And the company, which has a work force of 45,000 employees, is hiring again.
Now, Federal-Mogul has a balanced portfolio of products, customers and regional markets. Alapont noted these developments:
-- Volkswagen, Daimler and General Motors are the company's biggest customers, but no automaker generates more than 5 percent of sales.
-- Federal-Mogul is the global market leader in original-equipment sales of piston rings, valve seats, bearings and friction products. It is the second largest seller of pistons and gaskets.
-- The company has invested in new technology, opening 17 technology centers around the world. Over the years, Federal-Mogul has won nine Automotive News PACE awards for technological innovations.
Now that Alapont is leaving Federal-Mogul, what's next? He says he will return to Europe and perhaps find a new place in London. Other than that, he'll take some time off for world travel. Alapont says: "I am going to be a citizen of the world."