Fritz Henderson's troubleshooting talents were the stuff of legend as he scaled the heights of General Motors over 25 years — a career span that culminated with a brief stint as CEO during the 2009 bankruptcy crisis era. In a series of key overseas assignments, Henderson always arrived with ideas blazing.
After GM, Henderson left the auto industry but lost none of his flair for head-spinning strategic moves. As interim CEO of Adient — an assignment he took in June — he is quickly changing the seat supplier's direction.
Last week at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich., Adient Chief Technology Officer Detlef Juerss said the company's investment priorities since spinning off from Johnson Controls in October 2016 have been misguided — and that under Henderson, the supplier is refocusing on operations and performance.
"Fritz is taking a 180-degree change in many aspects of our business," Juerss said. "Our strategy now is on our traditional customers and delivering flawless launches while investing in automation."
In June, just days after the retirement of Bruce McDonald as CEO, Adient scrapped its plan to spend nearly $100 million on moving its main office from the Detroit suburb of Plymouth to a building in downtown Detroit. Adient had already invested $36 million in the plan.
"Detroit was not the right timing," Juerss said. "We should have spent that money somewhere else."
Juerss also said Adient's focus on new automotive business on the West Coast, including the $360 million acquisition of Futuris Group in 2017, pulled the supplier too far from its traditional customers as it tried to win contracts from automakers such as Tesla and Faraday Future.
"We've been a little distracted," Juerss said. "We're now transitioning to a focus on the day-to-day business ... not just the finer things in life."