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Executive Interview

Q&A With CARDONE CEO Mike Carr

In this exclusive Q&A, aftermarketNews sits down with Mike Carr, 30-year aftermarket executive who joined CARDONE Industries in August 2019, as its new CEO. Carr, who now also serves on the MERA Board of Directors, offers insight into CARDONE’s future growth plans and the change in the company’s ownership structure, after three generations as a family run business.

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You joined the company as CEO in August 2019, bringing with you 30 years of experience in the industry. Can you tell us a little bit about your background in the aftermarket and how those prior experiences will benefit you in this new role at CARDONE?

Our industry, while full of complexity, relies heavily on good old-fashioned relationships. The variety of roles I’ve held in my 30-year career at aftermarket companies like Exide, Clarios (formerly Johnson Controls) and Axalta, has allowed me to build a personal rapport with many customers. These relationships form a solid foundation that has already helped in my new role. The aftermarket is a wonderful community of great people, which is why I enjoy working in this industry so much. 

I’ve spent the bulk of my career in North America, but I’ve also lived and worked internationally in Europe and South America, with extensive experience in Mexico and Central America. Working in these different and often complex markets forced me to become very nimble in my decision-making and problem-solving skills. These experiences have helped me to adjust to the fast-moving, entrepreneurial culture at CARDONE.

Cardone was established by Michael Cardone Sr. and Michael Cardone Jr. in 1970 and remained a family owned and operated business for several decades. In mid-2019, the company was purchased by Brookfield, a global leader in asset management with a heritage as an owner-operator. Can you bring AMN readers up to speed on what has changed, or will be changing, under this new ownership?

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Our ownership structure today ultimately brings more stability to the company, so we are better equipped and empowered to serve our customers with laser focus. We are committed to delivering more products and world-class service – all for the single purpose of helping our customers succeed and win in the market.

Over the last year or so, we are working with greater efficiency and higher service levels to deliver for our customers.

I am sure there are elements of that family-owned company culture that will be maintained. Can you talk a little bit about that?

The greatest legacy that Michael Cardone Sr. and Jr. provided is their vibrant spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship and pure grit. With significant vision, Michael Sr. successfully forged a remanufacturing business that started with six employees in his grandmother’s Philadelphia rowhome. By offering a lower-cost, high-quality alternative for OE and new replacement auto parts, he and his son successfully grew the business and completely disrupted the replacement parts business. Our company will continue to disrupt the aftermarket with innovative parts solutions and new product lines.

By bringing “reman” to the aftermarket, the Cardones also introduced a sustainable business model that was years ahead of its time. The company was not only committed to recycling and reusing car parts, but also recycling the materials used to produce those parts, such as cardboard, wood and oil. Sustainable manufacturing will continue to be a focus at CARDONE.

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In addition to you joining the company this year, there have been a few other new appointments to the executive leadership team. Tell us about the team that has been put in place and what your goals are as you hit the ground running in 2020.

I believe the secret sauce that we now have is a healthy mix of inside and outside talent on the executive staff, with strong emphasis on automotive aftermarket experience. Some individuals have been with CARDONE for many years, bringing a wealth of remanufacturing expertise. There have been several veteran promotions in operations, including Tim McClave, our new EVP of Operations. Over 25 years, Tim has proven his qualification to lead with a successful track record in operations, engineering and product management. 

Some executives are new to the company, but not the aftermarket. For example, Dan Autey, who comes to CARDONE from Clarios, is our new EVP of Sales and Marketing. Dan brings a wealth of experience, solid customer relationships and a deep understanding of how the aftermarket works. 

Additionally, we have a board of advisers that will contribute valuable outside perspective. Mark Blinn, former CEO of Flowserve, currently serves on the board of directors at Texas Instruments, Emerson and Leggett & Platt Inc. His rich experience from varied industries will help diversify our viewpoint beyond automotive. 

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Ben Duster also brings a diverse background from several industries, such as health care, metal & materials, paper and financial services. He has held many senior positions – from managing director, senior adviser and partner to chief governance officer and CEO.

Dan Langdon, an aftermarket veteran of 30 years and former CEO of East Penn Manufacturing, also joined our board of advisers. Under his leadership as CEO, East Penn doubled in size and was voted one of the “Best Places to Work” for 18 of the past 19 years. Dan successfully accomplished the same goals I have for CARDONE – to grow the company and make it a fun place to work – so I warmly welcome his input to the team.

I have the utmost confidence that well-chosen people with the right strengths are now in leadership at CARDONE, and together we will continue to elevate our service levels and product quality to best-in-class.

Cardone has maintained a leadership position within the reman market. How does the company plan to expand and grow in 2020 and beyond?

Before coming to work at CARDONE, I spoke with many aftermarket folks about their thoughts and opinions about CARDONE. I was struck by a statement I heard over and over: “The aftermarket needs CARDONE.” When I asked why, it came down to three answers:

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  • The wide offering of product lines that you just can’t find anywhere else. 
  • The breadth of vehicle coverage from early to late models.
  • The need for strong suppliers that can meet demand and keep the industry healthy.

In a nutshell, we are going to do more of these things. We will continue to add breadth to existing products and add new product lines – there are many options under consideration, including rotating electrical. With our diverse background in mechanics, hydraulics and electronics, we are prepared for any new technology the new car manufacturers introduce. We will continue to innovate. We will continue to improve. We will continue to put our customers first.

This is how CARDONE will maintain its leadership position. We have an excellent opportunity to serve a great industry and an empowered workforce that is excited and committed. I am confident that the CARDONE team has the talent and drive to succeed, and I am excited to play a key role in its journey. 

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