If the idea sounds a little familiar, it's because it is precisely the business approach Magna used to become a global industry giant. Magna, where Gingl served as vice chairman under his longtime colleague, company founder Frank Stronach, is made up of multiple business groups. Magna stamps steel, produces electronics, manufactures complete vehicles for automakers, makes seats, builds body structures and supplies powertrain systems. Each operation competes as an independent business under the Magna corporate umbrella.
"I learned a lot in my years at Magna," Gingl acknowledged. "One thing I learned was that you can't just stand still as a maker of a commodity product. You have to offer the customer something more — more technology, entire systems or some innovation. That's where we're going to go with IAC."
IAC intends to develop new products in infotainment, sensors and electronics, engineering new technology into its interior panels and instrument clusters, the CEO reveals.
"But first," he said, "we're going to bring the company to a very decent level of profitability, and that hasn't happened here for the past 10 years."
IAC, headquartered in Luxembourg, employs about 22,000 people in 19 countries, making interior door panels, instrument panels, headliners and consoles. The company is an amalgam of the former interiors operations of Lear Corp. and Collins & Aikman, brought together and managed by the finance company once run by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. WL Ross & Co., a division of Invesco, and Franklin Mutual Advisers are the closely held company's majority shareholders.
After a rocky year in which the company couldn't find a buyer, sales have tumbled from $6 billion in 2016 to about $4 billion last year, in part due to the spin-off of its soft-trim unit.
Gingl said the company will trim its roster of 50 plants to about 45 as it homes in on more profitable business. "I'd rather have $4 billion that's healthy than $6 billion that's losing money," he said.
But getting there means lighting the entrepreneurial fire of IAC's factory managers. This year, IAC will establish a new performance reward system. Individual plants will have direct say on business quoting. The company will invest to strengthen local tooling capabilities and give plants more process engineering resources and more enhanced manufacturing automation.
"We want to create entrepreneurs at the individual companies," Gingl says. "We want them to say, 'I own this plant.' "