Every so often, our editorial staff selects one aftermarket industry professional to get to know a little better Participants are asked to respond to a series of questions that can be answered in about the same amount of time you might spend chatting at the office coffee pot or waiting for an elevator. In this installment of “Five Minutes With,” we get to know Ieon Chen, CEO of Innova Electronics Corp.
What was your first job in the industry?
Everything. In the 1980s my wife and I took over the responsibility of running Equus Products, a new distribution center for the U.S. territory for our family-owned manufacturer of aftermarket gauges and test equipment from which Innova Electronics would eventually be born. Without customers, without money, without personnel, we had to do everything ourselves. I handled sales, technical support, QC, warehousing, etc. She handled accounting, purchasing, reception, cleaning, etc. I have a degree in architecture and was an architect before embarking on a new career in the automotive aftermarket industry. I served as the design director for the Las Vegas McCarran Airport terminal and garage project, an airport I’ve flown into annually for decades to exhibit at the AAPEX show.
What do you like best about your current position?
Having grown Innova Electronics into a leading supplier of test equipment and diagnostic reporting for the automotive aftermarket, I have the flexibility to make things happen. We have the capacity, capability and resources to make projects happen, whether they are initiated by our development team or requested by a customer. An architect by trade, I especially love to tackle a challenging and complicating project with cutting-edge technology or something that’s an industry first such as our new patented RepairSolutions2 App with proprietary fix database combined with a diagnostic tool, which is not only helping end users diagnose cars more efficiently, but it’s providing retailers with new opportunities for parts sales. It’s very exciting.
Did you initially intend to pursue a career in the aftermarket? If not, what drew you to the industry and what keeps you here?
No, not at all, I went to school and pursued my career as an architect initially. I got a call from my mother to take over a failing family business. I had to drop my career and change professions. It’s the obligation and sense of responsibility that has kept me here for decades.
What do you do when not at work?
I work out in the gym, both in the company gym at our Irvine, California, headquarters with a trainer we make available to all of our employees, or at LA Fitness. I also like to read the newspaper (print and digital), watch a lot of news on YouTube, and try to relax on the weekends.
What one word best sums up your personality?
Determination. I am kind of stubborn; I don’t take “no” for an answer easily. Usually I will exhaust all our options first before I will even consider giving things up.
What kind of car do you drive?
I drive a Mercedes 2011 S550 currently; this is my favorite car by far. I also have a 1991 MB 560SEL, a 2011 Equus (a gift from Hyundai for using our Equus company name), and a 2019 MB S560. The reason I drove an MB is I learned a huge lesson by driving the wrong car. Back in the early Equus days before we’d added sister company Innova Electronics, I was driving a Ford Fairmont; I went to the LAX airport to pick up a potential joint venture partner to finalize the deal for representing his factory for the U.S. territory. He looked at my car and asked, “Is this your only car?” That was the end of the deal. A couple years later, he sold his business to Bosch for $150 million. I remember that lesson well and learned to drive a proper car to represent our business after that.
Do you have a hidden talent?
Since I was little, I have been able to view two two-dimensional drawings and see the three-dimensional image in my mind. After that, I found that I was very good at composing complicated elements together as a whole (maybe that’s why I went into architecture originally). This ability also makes it possible for me to simplify a complicated process to make it as simple as possible. This skill comes in handy to help make our tool and App UI easy and simple for customers to use.