Matthias Weitzel, 41
Director business development & marketing, Magna Exteriors and Interiors
Family: Wife, Joanna; son, Jan Eryk, 4; daughter, Milena, 2
Born: Kiel, Germany
Languages: German, English, some Spanish, learning Polish
Education: Degree in business administration, University of Kiel, Germany; studied business/economics at the University of Birmingham, England, and business /Spanish at the University of Salamanca, Spain
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I started my career as a strategy consultant and got to know various industries. Automotive quickly became my favorite because it is so dynamic and competitive.
I spearheaded the strategy for a massive expansion of our group in eastern Europe, including Russia, adding 11 manufacturing plants within four years through a combination of acquisitions, greenfields, and brownfields. This dramatically improved Magna Exteriors & Interiors' positioning for future growth.
Biggest failure and what it taught you?
We had a good business model for a new venture, but through a combination of changes in customer requirements, investment considerations and the addition of new partners, it was altered again and again and became very complex and difficult to manage. I learned to never let a sound business model get compromised.
What is your current challenge at work?
Balancing growth and consolidation in a difficult European market.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The massive growth it continues to deliver on a global level and the great and inspiring people you meet.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
There is no shortage of brilliant ideas – the key is to prioritize and execute what really matters. You will not achieve much with initiative overload.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Be aware that it is a fast-paced place to work, but also very addictive. You need to be passionate about it and proactive to succeed. This is not for bystanders.
If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
Make sure there is a clear vision and strategy in place and it is understood by everybody in the company. Success comes only if everyone fully commits to the same strategy.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I really enjoy strategy work, shaping the future a few years out. So my long-term ambition is a role at the heart of strategic decision-making in a large global company.
What do you do to relax?
Spend as much time as possible with my kids (although that in itself is not always immediately relaxing).
I learned to drive with my father's yellow 1980 Mercedes 200D. I've never owned a car, though. Ever. Because I do so much traveling and have always lived in big cities, it's more practical for me to use rental cars. I see car-sharing growing into a big trend.
Since I only use rentals, I get a new car two to three times a week. It's great because I see, feel and test what's new in all the brands. Sometimes my wife lets me drive her Audi Q5.
2007-present: Director business development & marketing, Magna Exteriors & Interiors, Sailauf, Germany
2005-2007: Director business development & marketing, Decoma (Magna's Exteriors unit), Altbach, Germany
2003-2005: Director business development, Decoma, Altbach
1998-2003: Strategy consultant, PIMS Associates, Cologne, Germany