Motorcar Parts of America's Selwyn Joffe on Core Values

Motorcar Parts of America’s Selwyn Joffe on Core Values

Sustainability is embedded in every facet of the company’s operations, Joffe affirmed.

As a leading remanufacturer of aftermarket automotive parts, Motorcar Parts of America (MPA) is sustainable by nature. However, the way that MPA makes its parts is just one facet of the company’s sustainability story. Chairman, President and CEO Selwyn Joffe emphasizes that sustainability is a core value that’s embedded in everything
MPA does. 

“Our view of sustainability begins with the sustainable entity,” Joffe says. 

In recent years, the definition of corporate sustainability has expanded from a singular focus on environmentally friendly business practices to the umbrella of environmental, social and governance practices, or ESG. The ESG framework is a means to evaluate and report on how an organization treats the environment, its employees and the communities in which it conducts business. It encompasses the ethical treatment of the planet as well as a company’s stakeholders – from factory-floor personnel to shareholders and customers. 

ESG compliance is a “core competency” at MPA, asserts Joffe. It’s so ingrained in the culture, in fact, that he adds: “We don’t think about, ‘Oh, we have to be ESG-compliant.’ We just are.” 

Selwyn Joffe, Chairman, President and CEO, Motorcar Parts of America (MPA).

“It’s the way we do business,” Joffe declares. “That’s the way we operate. That’s what we stand for – always.”

MPA’s management of the company during the COVID-19 pandemic exemplified its steadfast commitment to excellence…, while maintaining its regular operations with minimal interruption – and without any layoffs.

“We really embraced our community, and that started with the individuals who work for MPA and providing them the resources to deal with the challenges they had at home, the challenges they had at the organization and the challenges that our communities faced,”
Joffe explains.

Headquartered in Torrance, California, MPA has a workforce of more than 6,000 people, across 13 locations in seven countries and two continents. In addition to its Torrance campus, MPA has manufacturing facilities in Mexico, Malaysia, India and Canada. The company also has a distribution facility in China and a logistics facility in Singapore. 

The pandemic “put everything we stood for into motion,” Joffe explains. Free take-home meals, vaccinations and “complete medical assistance” are a few of the ways MPA supported its employees during this challenging time. In some locations, MPA also provided free vehicle services for emergency responders in the local communities. 

In some countries, MPA team members are provided transportation to and from work. During the pandemic, MPA ensured that shuttle buses employed additional social-distancing practices. 

Overall, the rate of COVID-19 infection throughout the MPA workforce was “nominal,” according to Joffe.

With the pandemic in the rearview mirror, MPA’s commitment to being a sustainable entity is in full bloom. MPA provides more than 8,000 low-cost meals per day at its facilities around the world, while also providing fruit-bearing trees in the parking lots that provide free food for employees. In Tijuana, MPA co-sponsors an emerging sustainable farm focused on growing organic fruits and vegetables. On its campuses in Mexico, MPA has facilities for soccer, basketball and volleyball. 

At the end of the day, “treating people right” is a core value at MPA. While it isn’t something that shows up on a balance sheet or P&L statement, the “sustainability of our workforce” – as Joffe calls it – is an investment that pays meaningful dividends. 

“When you have a degree of trust that goes both ways, your workforce excels,” Joffe says. “At the end of the day, you have a better-quality product. You can have great systems, but if your people don’t like their company, there’s nothing you can do to make a good product.”

‘We’re Not Just a Supplier of Parts’

Automotive entrepreneur Mel Marks founded MPA in 1968 as a full-line importer of European and Japanese replacement parts. 

Through acquisitions and organic growth, MPA has become a global leader in the remanufacturing and supply of underhood and undercar parts. In addition to its well-established starters and alternators, MPA’s portfolio now includes brake calipers, pads, drums, rotors, shoes, master cylinders and power boosters; hub assemblies and bearings; and turbochargers. 

Listed on the Nasdaq, MPA has been a publicly traded company since 1994. For its trailing 12 months ended December 31, 2023, net sales increased 10.8 percent to $722.9 million. Joffe attributed these results to “the strength of our products and excellent customer relationships, enhanced by being a critical supplier of non-discretionary automotive parts.”

Joffe estimates that 80% of MPA’s product offerings are remanufactured. When you consider the inherent environmental benefits of remanufacturing – along with MPA’s dedication to providing a sustainable working environment – it’s easy to understand why Joffe would confidently declare: “We’re not just a supplier of parts.”

Outside of the automotive aftermarket, the full benefits of remanufacturing probably aren’t as well-known or well-understood as they should be. 

In the remanufacturing process, used parts – usually referred to as “cores” – are completely restored to like-new condition. This involves disassembling, cleaning, inspecting and remanufacturing or replacing worn or failed components before reassembling the product. 

Through this process, MPA reuses core units that otherwise would end up being recycled or disposed of. Because remanufacturing preserves the energy invested in forging and forming durable components, it’s even more environmentally friendly than recycling.

Compared with traditional manufacturing, remanufacturing requires minimal additional energy. For example, manufacturing one new starter demands more than 10 times the amount of energy and nine times the number of materials required to produce a remanufactured starter, according to MPA. It’s been estimated that remanufacturing can reduce material and energy consumption by up to 95% compared with traditional manufacturing practices. According to some estimates, remanufactured products conserve roughly the equivalent of 400 trillion BTUs of energy per year. 

In our efforts to protect the environment, MPA facilities ensure complete waste recycling, while our remanufacturing processes prioritize the safety of our workforce. “We’ve adopted a manufacturing approach that increases workplace safety,” Joffe details. “By focusing on single-part production, we avoid the complexities of assembly lines and batch production, with the added benefit of enabling each team member to see and appreciate their efforts in the final product.”

What makes remanufacturing such a win-win for consumers is the combination of the environmental advantages and the product quality – not to mention the fact that reman parts are less expensive than newly manufactured replacement parts. 

MPA’s extensive and rigorous quality-control system is steeped in continuous-improvement methodologies. The company leverages “an ongoing cycle of multi-stage, iterative testing designed to uncover further opportunities for product-quality improvement,” according to the MPA website. As part of its quality system, MPA load-tests parts in simulated driving conditions, and performs root-cause analysis on returns to determine failure modes, among other measures. MPA also designs and builds its own in-house testing equipment.

To ensure that parts meet or exceed the quality of a newly manufactured part, a rigorous testing process is utilized – including, as appropriate, a “triple-testing process,” Joffe explains. MPA’s T3+ Testing has three elements:

• T1 – Individual components are tested to validate specifications, functionality, and durability before they reach the factory floor.

• T2 – All critical sub-assemblies are tested on specialized equipment prior to final assembly.

• T3 – Completed units are individually end-of-line tested across a full range of operating requirements.

In a time of stubbornly high inflation, remanufactured parts have a compelling value proposition. With businesses and consumers shifting toward sustainable products and practices that support a circular economy, Joffe sees a huge opportunity to educate the public on the many benefits of buying a remanufactured product. 

“We need to do a better job – not only at MPA, but our customer base, the distributor base – of telling the consumer [about remanufacturing] to help them make a better and more informed buying decision,” asserts Joffe. “… I think it’s misleading to tell the consumer to pay more money for a new unit versus a remanufactured unit when all the attributes of the remanufactured part are better or equal to a  new part. It’s crazy.”

Powered by MPA

When Joffe joined the company as a consultant in the 1990s, MPA was an acronym for “Motorcar Parts and Accessories.” During this period, however, the company was streamlining its catalog – phasing out the accessories – and concentrating its focus on rotating electrical. When Joffe became CEO in 2003, he changed the company name to “Motorcar Parts of America,” retaining the MPA acronym. “Powered by MPA” has become the company’s overarching tagline. 

This wasn’t a mere marketing ploy. In a 2022 Executive Interview with aftermarketNews, Joffe said: “The whole focus of the company changed,” and MPA incorporated new disciplines, technology, and infrastructure.  

Since then, MPA has positioned itself as a leading B-to-B brand with a global reach. With the opening of additional facilities in the United States, Mexico, Malaysia and Singapore, MPA expanded its annual production capacity significantly. Meanwhile, the launch of the “Quality-Built” brand of starters and alternators – designed to meet the needs of professional technicians – reaffirmed the company’s standing as a leader in rotating electrical. 

In recent years, MPA has been taking aggressive steps to capture more market share in the brake-parts category. In 2020, the company added brake calipers to the product line, leveraging the capabilities of its expanded, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities. In 2022, MPA introduced a comprehensive line of brake pads and rotors under the Quality-Built brand, solidifying the company’s position as a full-line supplier of brake parts for professional installers. MPA also offers brake shoes, master cylinders and power brake boosters. 

 “The growth we’re experiencing particularly in brake-related parts is pretty significant,” Joffe says.

MPA has made several strategic acquisitions over the past few years. In 2017, MPA acquired D&V Electronics, a manufacturer of leading-edge testing equipment for electric motors and inverters in EVs and benchtop testers for starters and alternators in internal-combustion engines. In 2019, MPA acquired Dixie Electric, a Concord, Ontario-based company that manufactures and remanufactures heavy-duty starters, alternators and generators for the commercial-vehicle, agriculture, construction, industrial, mining and specialty-application markets.

Each company has brought unique capabilities and technologies to MPA. Dixie Electric, for example, has opened new opportunities in the heavy-duty space with the launch of MPA’s “Fleet Elite” program. Joffe says the company has seen strong demand for Dixie’s brushless alternators, especially for transit and marine applications.

D&V, meanwhile, straddles the ICE and EV spaces. Joffe says “retailers have embraced” D&V’s benchtop testing systems for rotating electrical, and MPA expects demand to continue to grow. On the EV side, D&V makes complete systems for the advanced testing of electric and hybrid-vehicle motors, inverters, batteries and E-axles. The technology enables automakers to evaluate how inverters, electric motors, batteries and other hardware interact with a simulated vehicle.

“So, the whole electric powertrain becomes very real,” Joffe explains. “You can design the vehicle and test the powertrain without building a prototype. It’s an enormous cost savings [for EV makers] and it speeds the time to market dramatically.” It is referred to as emulation and places the EV hardware in a software environment. 

While acquisitions have played some role in MPA’s growth over the years, Joffe emphasizes that “organic growth is our No. 1 priority.”

“We’re not in acquisition mode,” Joffe adds. “We’re focused on [growing] market share along with profitability and positive cashflow. We’re in a very strong financial position today, and we want to maintain and grow that. If something opportunistic comes along that’s a great fit, we would look at it, but we are not actively pursuing. 

“We just recently expanded our entire footprint, and we want to fill that capacity. The businesses that we’re in represent many billions of dollars of market opportunity. And we’re just beginning.”

‘We’re as Strong as Ever’

We concluded our interview with MPA Chairman, President and CEO Selwyn Joffe by asking him what he’d like the aftermarket to know about Motorcar Parts of America.

“No. 1, we’re as strong as ever,” Joffe says. “We continue to be extremely committed to our industry and making sure that our products are the finest in the industry.”

MPA’s publicly stated mission is to be “the global leader for parts and solutions that move our world today and tomorrow.”

“We intend to be a great and respected supplier for all of our customers for many years to come,” Joffe adds. “We have industry-leading fill rates on our products and industry-leading quality and warranty levels, and industry-leading pricing on these programs.

“We’re here, and we’re committed to continuous improvement. That’s what we live by. So, for all of our products, even though they are excellent, they are going to get better. And, even if you didn’t think that’s possible, it’ll still get better.”

Joffe became chairman of MPA in 2000 and CEO in 2003. In his time at the company – which dates to the 1990s as a consultant – he has developed a deep appreciation for the people of MPA, many of whom have worked there for decades.    

Says Joffe: “The most valuable item we have on the balance sheet is the passion and productivity of our employees and the phenomenal team that we have.” 

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