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Executive Interview with Michael Tate, General Manager, MAHLE Clevite Inc.

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In September, Michael Tate joined MAHLE Clevite as general manager. He brings 26 years of aftermarket experience to MAHLE Clevite, most recently with SPX Service Solutions. In addition to SPX, Tate held a variety of sales management positions with such companies as Parker Automotive, Dorman Products and Phillips & Temro Industries.

As GM of MAHLE Clevite, Tate has management responsibility for all North American Aftermarket activities for the MAHLE Group, which includes MAHLE Clevite Inc., MAHLE Clevite Canada, ULC and the Aftermarket division of MAHLE Componentes de Motores S.A. de C.V.

Tate works out of MAHLE Clevite headquarters in Ann Arbor, MI.

You are now closing in on eight months since MAHLE’s acquisition of Dana Corp.’s Engine Parts Division, and the formation of MAHLE Clevite Inc. Now that you are settling into your role as general manager, what are your plans for the division going forward? Where do you see MAHLE Clevite headed in the future?

MAHLE Clevite will serve as the cornerstone of MAHLE Aftermarket in the USA. Strong brands, excellent distribution and a major market presence ensure only positives for the future. Our brands; Clevite engine bearings, MAHLE Original pistons and engine parts, Perfect Circle piston rings, and Victor Reinz gaskets – are universally recognized brands that will continue to grow through the support of an engine focused organization like MAHLE. Add the MAHLE Performance capabilities and we have quite a package to offer the aftermarket.

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Two of our most valuable assets are the Clevite and Perfect Circle brands. These brands will continue for the foreseeable future. Both have well deserved reputations for quality and performance in motorsports activities of all kinds. The MAHLE heritage in motorsports, combined with the status as a leading supplier of piston systems to many levels of motorsports, make us very excited about the opportunities presented with the Clevite bearing and Perfect Circle motorsports products.

Can you tell us any more about the plans for Victor Reinz?

First let me address the brand issue with Victor Reinz.

Upon completion of the sale, MAHLE entered into a long-term licensing and distribution agreement for Victor Reinz gasket products in the United States aftermarket. The agreement continues today’s distribution of Victor Reinz products through MAHLE Clevite. The bottom line is that our Victor Reinz customers will continue to see absolutely no change in their level of great service. We look forward to a successful collaboration with Victor Reinz in these markets since the Victor Reinz brand is a natural fit with the other MAHLE Clevite brand products.

Now, as to our long-term viability as a gasket supplier: We will actively market the Victor Reinz brand in North America. Currently, MAHLE plans include becoming a strong, basic supplier of gaskets and sealing systems and we see it as a strategic complement to our core business.

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How do engine parts fit into MAHLE’s plans for the future?

The engine products marketed by MAHLE and MAHLE Clevite complement each other perfectly. This was further proven by the seamless integration of MAHLE product into the existing Clevite distribution system. Also, the MAHLE Clevite headquarters and operations in Ann Arbor, MI, provide the ideal location for MAHLE aftermarket operations.

As a European supplier, what strengths and core competencies does MAHLE bring to the table in the U.S. market?

The first thing I want to address is that we are not a “European supplier." While European technology is highly advanced, we have our own share of product ingenuity showcased in the many patents our engineers have earned over several decades. Our strength has less to do with MAHLE being a European-based supplier, and more to do with being extremely focused on the engine. The engine is core to our being, we’re not a driveline supplier with some engine business.

How do you plan to address the perception that MAHLE is primarily a European supplier?

MAHLE Clevite has already begun transforming that perception. MAHLE is a global supplier of engine products for the North American aftermarket. In the months leading up to me assuming my role as general manager, MAHLE mapped out a definitive brand strategy that is already taking shape. As mentioned earlier, Clevite and Perfect Circle are strong American brands, and they have a long-term home in the MAHLE family. My job is to continue to implement the plan and guide this transformation in the awareness of the MAHLE global reach.

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While we may not represent baseball and apple pie, we are firmly entrenched in something just as American – NASCAR.

Since you mentioned NASCAR, and everyone knows the Clevite history with NASCAR, can you expand on what your relationship is moving forward?

The MAHLE presence in Formula 1 is extensive; in fact MAHLE pistons just helped power another World Champion to the Formula 1 title as Ferrari captured another crown in 2007. This motorsports involvement transitions very well into the Clevite heritage of motorsports domination.

MAHLE Clevite already has exclusive NASCAR Performance products with Clevite engine bearings, Perfect Circle piston rings, Victor Reinz gaskets and MAHLE Original engine parts. But the relationship does not stop there.

Not even a year after the formation of MAHLE Clevite Inc., we are on the verge of launching our “grass roots" racing initiative. Part of this initiative includes extending our NASCAR sponsorship through their regional levels in their Grand National Divisions, their Touring Series and their Weekly Series – this is in addition to a new deal for all three National Series as well.

Grass roots racing is where the heart and soul of racing lies. These weekend warriors spend all week working in shops across North America ensuring whatever their vehicle – it is ready to race on Friday or Saturday. MAHLE Clevite supports these men and women, not just racing to pursue a dream of making the big time; but of winning their track championship, or even improving on their personal best.

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What changes will we see?

While the Clevite engine bearing brand lives on, the familiar Clevite decal – a mainstay on front fenders throughout all racing – transitions to a new MAHLE branded decal. Instead of the familiar blue, we now feature a white decal with the classic MAHLE in blue. Again, nothing is changing in terms of Clevite — the engine bearing legend and brand continues under the hoods and in the power plants of any car fighting toward the finish line, the winner’s circle, or Victory Lane.

Clevite has cultivated quite a presence in NHRA and IHRA Drag Racing, how will this be affected?

Like with NASCAR, and the whole product line for that matter, our relationships with drag racing’s top teams will only improve due to the commitment of MAHLE to engine parts and to motorsports. The MAHLE Clevite Nitro Club is getting set for its fourth year supporting teams competing at drag racing’s highest levels.

Where do you see the engine parts business heading in the next five to 10 years?

Internal combustion engines have a pretty good future. Yes there will be changes, new innovations, improved operating efficiencies that require even better products from suppliers like MAHLE, but we’re up to the task! There is lots of talk about hydrogen fuel cells, but frankly, we’re a long way from realistic HFC-powered vehicles.

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Will MAHLE Clevite continue programs like the Engine Builder Showdown and the Machinist of the Year, but also things that support industry technicians and initiatives?

Beginning with the first two programs, those are best answered by saying that the 2007 MAHLE Engine Builder Showdown was one of the most successful ever. In fact, the name itself says it best, MAHLE is committed to the Showdown, and plans are underway now for the 2008 edition. We have already received a record number of entries surpassing the 2007 record – so the ninth year of competition proves that the Showdown is growing up more every year. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing this spectacle in person, and presenting the big check, after what could be a new record – although bettering 16 minutes and 25 seconds is a tall order.

As for the MAHLE Clevite Machinist of the Year program, the winner of this year’s competition was announced last week at PRI (Ed: stay tuned for more details). We will actively continue to sponsor and promote this important industry program. In fact, the deadline for 2007 just passed, but anyone that did not make it in can look forward to 2008.

We are also committed to less publicized industry activities. We support all major industry organizations, ASE Certification, PIES and ACES standards and a host of other activities often forgotten in the industry, and will continue to do so.

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You recently relocated for your new position at MAHLE Clevite. How do you like Ann Arbor?

The staff assembled here in the office is without question, the most knowledgeable and hardest working group I have ever been around. In fact, that is true of not just Ann Arbor, but throughout the whole MAHLE Clevite network. We are poised for a very bright future, and I am very excited to be a part of it.

As for the city, it is more than just a college town. My family is getting acclimated very well as it is a great place with plenty to do – of course, I have to take their word for it as most of my time has been spent in the office hard at work. We have many things to accomplish, and the sooner the better; I will have plenty of time to slow down when the work is done.

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