Walker’s career at Magna spans 33 years, with the last 15 as CEO, his second stint in the role. He served in various leadership positions at the company, including CEO of former Magna unit Intier Automotive between 2001 and 2005.
He also was CEO of Magna between 1994 and 2001.
"I would also like to commend Don for his success and thank him for his dedicated service,” Young said in his statement. “Under his strong leadership, Magna has grown to be the third-largest global automotive supplier, one of Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies, and a perennial winner of customer, industry and technology awards.”
Magna shares closed Tuesday's trading up 1.4 percent to $54.50.
The time was right
In a conference call with journalists on Tuesday morning, Walker said the time is right for his retirement and Kotagiri’s leadership.
Swamy has “a very strong operational and technical background but he’s been taking a lead on the strategic decisions we’re making,” he said. “I’m very comfortable that the management team being led by Swamy is in really good shape.”
“We’ve got a good working relationship with a lot of companies because they understand our operational excellence but more so, our technical excellence, and that’s what they’re looking for so they can be competitive and sell vehicles around the world,” Walker added. “Swamy’s not only got the right qualifications and technical and personal attributes we need; he's also at the right age to lead this company for well over another decade.”
Kotagiri said in the call that he takes the reigns of the company from Walker with complete confidence for the future.
“We are pursuing a strategy to take an even larger role as the industry continues to evolve,” he said.
Kotagiri has held a number of director and vice president roles at Magna in recent years, especially in R&D.
“As the industry continues to change, the way we define, design and use transportation will be dramatically different and how we look at and address the future of mobility I’m sure will have far-reaching consequences, not just for people but for society as a whole.”
End of an era
Flavio Volpe, head of the Canadian Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association, called Walker’s retirement “the end of era.”
“His confident leadership led Magna International to heights heretofore unseen by a Canadian firm, making them a global giant in all things auto,” Volpe said in a statement. “The world’s third-largest supplier has become a leading 21st century mobility force.
“Don took over the biggest supplier in Canada and turned it into the most influential supplier in the world.”
Volpe also noted Walker’s “unique influence and thoughtful manner as chair of the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council” for two decades and his contribution to the renegotiation of NAFTA, now called the USMCA.
Volpe then praised Kotagiri and Magna’s decision to promote him.
“Everyone in auto knows him to be one of the leading forces in technological innovation in product and process design,” Volpe said. “The public will soon see how thoughtful he is about the role and responsibility of mobility in wider society.”
Magna ranks No. 3 on the 2020 Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide sales to automakers of $39.43 billion in 2019.
Greg Layson of Automotive News Canada contributed to this report.