Bradley Norton joined Federal-Mogul as co-CEO of the company and CEO of its Motorparts division, in March of this year. He joined Federal-Mogul with a combined 25 years of experience in both the OE and aftermarket segments. Norton joined Federal-Mogul Motorparts in 2014 as senior vice president and general manager, chassis and service. He previously served as president and a board member of Freudenberg-NOK, a joint venture between Freudenberg GmbH and NOK Corp. Prior to joining Freudenberg-NOK, he held a series of increasingly responsible leadership positions in operations, supply chain, commercial and organizational strategy with BorgWarner, Nissan North America, AlliedSignal and other companies.
In this Executive Interview, Norton talks about the company’s six cultural values and the impact they are having on overall company performance and achievement. He also brings us up to speed on the company’s investment in operations both domestically and overseas.
What have been your key areas of focus since becoming CEO of Federal-Mogul Motorparts earlier this year?
Our long-term strategy at Federal-Mogul Motorparts was developed three years ago, along with this management team, and we will continue to execute our five strategic priorities: forging a strong, enduring connection with our customers so that we can clearly communicate the benefits of our products; expanding our distribution capabilities to provide faster access to our products; improving our cost structure by realigning our extensive engineering, manufacturing and sourcing operations; modernizing IT systems and related capabilities to better serve our customers; and growing our global product offering. We have continued to make a strong, sustained investment in our company, brands, products and people – all with the singular goal of being the best business partner to customers in every market around the world.
Where are you investing for growth in your global operations?
We are investing in growth on a global basis. For example, while some might view North America as a mature market, we see it as a significant opportunity to expand the presence of our great products and brands. Over the past few years, we have reconfigured our distribution footprint and continued to invest in our North American manufacturing operations and technical training centers. We presently are expanding our manufacturing operation in Boaz, Alabama, to address strong market demand for MOOG steering and suspension products. We’re making similar investments in other regions. We will open a new product distribution facility in Hungary in the next few weeks in support of customers across the Europe/Middle
East/North Africa markets. In Mexico, we acquired Interfil, a leading manufacturer of filtration products for automotive and commercial vehicle applications. And in the Asia Pacific region, we recently opened a state-of-the-art packaging, assembly and redistribution center in China. We are working hard to capitalize on the tremendous growth opportunities we foresee in China and India as the aftermarket in those countries develops. Each of these investments underscores our commitment to provide world-class products and services to all of our customers.
What do you see as the more significant challenges facing today’s aftermarket and how is Federal-Mogul Motorparts dealing with them?
I believe our primary industry challenges are as follows: What’s in the box? How do we, as an industry, address the skills gap among repair technicians? And how do we drive demand to customers through brand value?
Vehicle service professionals and their customers are bombarded with new brands and product choices every day. We need to help them make sense of all those choices. Which brake pad, ball joint or head gasket can they trust to truly solve the problem the first time? Many of today’s industry participants claim to provide replacement parts that are equal or better than OE quality, but few seem to consistently deliver it. The quality and value provided by each of our brands is our answer to these daily questions.
Our industry also faces a challenge to close the skills gap between dealership service locations and aftermarket shops. Without a full force of knowledgeable, dedicated technicians on the front line, the aftermarket’s entire value proposition is at risk. Our Garage Gurus platform is an investment we make on behalf of all of our customers to help technicians stay at the top of their game and provide vital support to young professionals who are studying to become automotive service professionals.
Finally, our channel partners look to Federal-Mogul Motorparts for quality brands, creative value-added programs and other support that help them remain competitive by generating demand at the street level. We are differentiating ourselves by investing in each of these areas to earn their trust and loyalty every day.
Why do you believe the industry still faces such a large “inventory” of unperformed or underperformed maintenance in North America?
I believe this problem is the result of decades of missed opportunities. The aftermarket industry as a whole – our own company included – has failed to consistently focus on building a strong connection with consumers to help make them feel confident and comfortable with the process of maintaining their vehicles. We need to become more accessible as an industry by demystifying the technologies in today’s vehicles, and communicating at a level that enables the consumer to make informed decisions about how their cars will be serviced.
Federal-Mogul Motorparts is focusing on this challenge in a number of ways, including our “Parts Matter” campaign, which communicates the importance of choosing quality parts for your vehicle. Our overarching goal is to help foster a continuing dialog among consumers and the highly skilled professionals who work in local automotive service businesses.
How will Federal-Mogul Motorparts be different under your leadership?
As I mentioned earlier, we are continuing to execute our long-term strategy. To that extent, much will remain the same. What I do see as different is the reaction our teams have had to our recent rollout of our corporate vision, mission and values. We are creating a culture that rewards people globally for living our six values: integrity, accountability, respect, innovation, passion and teamwork. If we are all united in this, we will make a difference for our customers, suppliers and associates.