Werner Lieberherr was named CEO of MANN+HUMMEL on Oct. 30. While still settling into his new role, one thing about Lieberherr is clear: he is an energetic, outside-the-box leader who has a laser-like focus on one mission – to make this company more “customer-obsessed,” as he puts it.
You took up your new role with MANN+HUMMEL on Oct. 30. While I’m sure you are still acclimating to the role, what are some of your immediate goals for the company?
Currently, I am meeting with many customers and employees across the globe to understand our untapped opportunities and challenges for our company. Then, I am also in the process of reviewing our technologies to gain insights about our competitive positioning. I also would like to position our company to become more customer obsessed and performance and execution-driven.
Prior to this, you served in executive roles in the aerospace industry. What do you plan to apply from your time in aerospace to this new role in the automotive aftermarket? What are some unique insights you can bring from that market to this one?
While the Aerospace and the Automotive and Life Science & Environment industries look quite different at first sight, there are many parallels that apply to both. Top-line growth, innovation, program execution and cost are extremely relevant to commercial success and deserve a lot of attention by all management levels. Above all, our employees with their deep knowledge play a very vital role and it is one of our foremost responsibilities as leaders to put the right people at the right place and time is of essence to get this accomplished. If we are strong in these areas, I firmly believe we will be able to successfully compete.
What are some of the key traits you hope to bring to the corporate culture at MANN+HUMMEL as its top leader?
I am seen as a very proactive leader with a lot of positive energy and drive.
I would like to infect our employees with these traits to become a very customer-obsessed and agile organization. Open discussions with many unconventional ideas are also very important to me. This kind of thinking will elevate our performance and increase customer satisfaction.
And, speaking of corporate culture, what is it like melding together the corporate culture of a German powerhouse like MANN+HUMMEL with that of a longstanding American business like WIX? What are some of the most interesting aspects of this unique environment?
Well, MANN+HUMMEL has over 80 locations around the world. I would like to see us develop from an international company into a global powerhouse with a very diverse workforce. I firmly believe that a diverse team is a better team and we have tons of talented people who want to contribute.
Of course, our US-based WIX employees bring a tremendous amount of intimate market and product knowledge, which perfectly complements our OEM expertise and insights into the European and Asian markets.
As someone new to the company, in your opinion, what are some of the fundamental characteristics that separate MANN+HUMMEL from its competition?
We are seen as the leader in filtration and we want to maintain this No. 1 position. Our biggest strengths are our customer intimacy, our state-of-the-art technologies in filtration, our media competence and our very capable employees. Sustainability plays a key role in our thinking when we develop new filtration solutions for clean mobility, clean air and clean water.
Having said this, we have very formidable competitors and we need to work very hard every day to successfully compete.
There is so much change on the horizon for the automotive aftermarket – electric vehicles, autonomous driving, telematics, etc. What role will MANN+HUMMEL play in the Car of the Future?
First, I would like to say that the number of vehicles with combustion engines will grow until approximately 2025 and the production of hybrid cars will continue to grow until approximately 2035. In addition to that, hybrids, battery electrical and fuel cell vehicles demand new filtration solutions with higher technical requirements allowing us to technologically differentiate.
I also would to mention that “autonomous driving” will offer individual mobility, independent of age and physical condition leading to an increased mileage per car, which drives aftermarket demand. Unrestricted access to telematics data in the aftermarket is vital for the continued growth, in particular for the independent aftermarket. Without access to vehicle data and related product and repair information, maintenance service could only be provided in a captive OEM network.
I see it as an important role of the parts manufacturing industry to promote unrestricted access to vehicle data in order to promote a healthy competition between OES and IAM service networks. This changing environment will lead to new opportunities and challenges in a growing aftermarket environment.