Eric Steinbecher is president of the Automotive Aftermarket Americas for Schaeffler. In today’s Q&A, he shares with AMN some of the changes taking place within the company, including updates to Schaeffler’s corporate identity.
AMN: You’ve been in your new role with Schaeffler roughly three months now. Tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to this position.
Steinbecher: For over 18 years, I have had a great interest in all things automotive, and my experience over this time has come from many different companies in the automotive industry. From Visteon Corp. to Benteler Automotive, I have held numerous leadership positions in sales, marketing, product management, business development and business unit manager. When I joined Schaeffler Automotive Aftermarket six years ago, I became responsible for Global Strategy and Business Development. Although I truly enjoyed this strategic role in the auto care industry at the headquarter level, I found that I missed working with the customers, and being heavily involved in the business, as I had done in the past.
The experience I have gained in so many different areas, in all the global Schaeffler regions, provides me with the ability to take advantage of this knowledge to further develop our Americas Automotive Aftermarket organization. I am very glad to have been given the opportunity to continue my growth in this industry as the president of the Automotive Aftermarket Americas for Schaeffler.
AMN: Moving from Europe to now serving the Automotive Aftermarket in the Americas, what are some of the key difference you see between these markets? Will you make any changes to your approach based on these differences?
Steinbecher: Before I touch on these questions, I would like to clarify that there is just not one market in the Americas, because of the vast difference between U.S. and Canada, Mexico, and also Brazil. At Schaeffler Automotive Aftermarket, we have divided the region of Americas into three markets based on their individual needs: Americas North (U.S. & Canada), Americas Central (Mexico, Central America and Gr. Columbia) and Americas South (Brazil, SAO and Argentina), because each area requires a different approach. Based on this, I can say that the European market is much different than the three markets in the Americas. Some differences include the customer concentration, car parc, customer-specific program complexity and logistical requirements. Even with these differences, there are still many commonalities across the markets including, the demand for premium quality parts and the requirement for customer support through technical and diagnostic training, to ensure that complex repairs are made once to satisfy the final customer driving the car.
Our goal is to make sure that automotive service professionals can reduce their return rate by using our products and training, so that they can build their reputation on our brands and the quality of service they provide to their customer. With this vision in mind, Schaeffler serves all our markets by offering technical excellence, delivering intelligent solutions and providing outstanding services to our customer. Based on this, I do not see any need for me to change my approach from how I approached the European market, however, having a history in global responsibility provides me a better understanding of different market dynamics around the world, and what will be needed in our Americas markets to make sure that our customers become and remain more competitive.
AMN: Speaking of the Americas, Schaeffler recently opened an office in Silicon Valley. We are seeing quite a convergence of aftermarket suppliers in this region. What’s in store for Schaeffler with this move?
Steinbecher: The focus for our new Silicon Valley location is to foster new relationships with local disruptors, start-up companies and potential partners that will further facilitate advanced automotive and industrial product developments. As we continue to focus on being a strategic partner to our customers, now and in the future, Schaeffler recognizes the importance of staying current with transformational technology trends. By opening this new office, we have clearly demonstrated our commitment to moving toward the future.
AMN: We understand that Schaeffler is moving forward with a global initiative to focus on its corporate identity. In the past, there has been more of a focus on the well-known brands of LuK, INA and FAG. What was the impetus behind this change?
Steinbecher: Schaeffler is our corporate identity. Founded over 70 years ago, Schaeffler currently offers products and solutions to the auto care industry under the brand names LuK, INA and FAG. All the products and services we offer are backed by the same engineering, R&D, manufacturing and support whether for the development of the Mars Rover or the Ford Ranger. The landscape of the global marketplace has made dramatic changes, with customers and suppliers crossing countries, continents and industries. With more than 90,000 employees in more than 150 locations and 49 countries, we feel it is important for our customers to understand the strength of a partnership with Schaeffler.
To showcase this strength, we have been realigning our entire portfolio to focus on Schaeffler as a global partner.
AMN: How will this change be reflected in your corporate marketing materials, product branding etc? When will we see these changes take place?
Steinbecher: We began this transition more than 10 years ago, by including Schaeffler as a prominent feature in our communications and tradeshows. This year, as we continue to work on our global branding initiative, we are introducing a new packaging concept that presents both Schaeffler and its brands together on the box. This fresh, eye-catching packaging clearly brings this initiative to the market and represents the quality that we bring with our name. By having the individual brand colors represented on the boxes for each product, we remind our customers that although we are changing the packaging, they can expect the same quality products that they have become loyal to in the past. As we move forward, the customer will see an increased focus on our ability to provide systems solutions for the whole car, and how Schaeffler will continue to be a strategic partner, now and into the future.
AMN: AAPEX 2018 is just around the corner, what does your company have planned for the show?
Steinbecher: Schaeffler is absolutely committed to the continued success and prosperity of our aftermarket partners and is actively shaping mobility for tomorrow. AAPEX is the perfect venue to provide our guests with the opportunity to experience our products, technology, and services hands-on and in-person. This year, we will be showcasing Schaeffler’s system expertise and OE heritage with our new augmented reality exhibit. The three displays integrate seamlessly OE and aftermarket products within the transmission, engine and chassis systems and provide guests with a chance to interact with our products in a new and unique way. In addition, we have incorporated training within our AAPEX activities for the past four years and this year we will again be offering on demand technical and sales training in our booth daily.