Gerald Mentil, 40
Vice president emerging markets division, emissions controls business group, Faurecia
Family:Wife, Agnes; daughters, Emilie, 11, Laura, 5; son, Alexandre, 2
Born: Marseille, France
Languages: French, English, Spanish
Education: MBA, INSEAD business school, Fontainebleau, France; master's degree in engineering, Institut Mines-Telecom, Lille, France
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I specialized in plastics and composites during my engineering studies because I was interested in design, particularly with regard to car interiors applications. I spent three months working for Valeo's quality department in Coventry, England, on Jaguars. I was excited by the opportunity to work on premium cars right away and I enjoyed working with such a passionate group of people.
Your greatest achievement?
My professional turning point came in 2009 when I became general manager of a newly purchased Faurecia plant in Romania that needed to be turned around. A team of young Romanian managers and I took on the challenge. Together we managed to deliver results no one expected. We quickly deployed Faurecia's tools and processes to maximize value on the parts we produced for the Dacia Logan platform. Our financial results and customer satisfaction improved tremendously. The plant jumped to No. 1 in several of Faurecia's rankings and we earned a number of internal awards. Four of the managers who worked with me have become plant managers elsewhere and four others have been promoted to regional management roles.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
It took place when I promoted an internal candidate to a new management role at a plant. Despite carefully assessing the candidate's qualifications, I didn't factor in the status of the plant. The person had the right skills to do the job but not in that environment, which was too unstable. I have learned to look even more carefully at all potential success factors to make sure the people I promote have the best chance to prosper.
What is your current challenge at work?
I'm in charge of the emerging markets division for Faurecia's emissions control business group. This includes India, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Russia, Morocco and Iran. We have development centers and plants producing in those markets for worldwide automakers. Everyone is interested in capitalizing on the opportunities presented in those emerging markets, but everyone goes about it differently. Faurecia is using a so-called "fit to market" approach. This includes creating local joint ventures and attracting local talent to create a new generation of managers in these countries who can handle the current and future challenges the industry faces.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
After 16 years I am still surprised at the automotive industry's ability to keep getting better and better. I marvel at how all of us continue to increase customer satisfaction year after year. We manage situations that affect global footprints within an ever-changing complex world with an agility that is surprising for such an "old" industry.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Set high expectations for yourself and for others.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Start in a manufacturing plant. Once you get comfortable you will see that it is a lot like a living organism. Learn the product. Touch it so you understand how it is made and experience it with all your senses. Learn about the people who are making the product. Get to know them and see how they dedicate their time and attention to what they produce. As long as you are ready to take on challenges, this industry offers limitless opportunities, regardless of your educational background.
If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
My first priority would be to meet with the customers, suppliers, workers and teams. I would listen to their feedback and then develop an ambitious vision for the entire organization. John Lennon said: "A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality."
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I would like a position where I can affect the business model as well as the chance to manage the company's strategic levers, products, people and customers on a global basis.
What do you do to relax?
I love to spend time with my wife and kids. I draw my energy from them and recharge my batteries when we are together. I also like to participate in sports and I run on a regular basis.
2015-present: Vice president emerging markets division (South America, India, South Africa, Middle East), emissions control business group, Nanterre, France
2011-2015: Operations director for Romania, Turkey, Russia, interior systems business group, Meru, France
2009-2011: General manager Romania, interior systems business group, Pitesti, Romania
2008-2009: Program director for Renault/Dacia Logan, interior systems business group, Meru
2007-2008: Manager of joint venture east, interior systems business group, Meru
2003-2007: Manager of autonomous unit of production, interior systems business group, Fountain Inn, South Carolina, USA
2002-2003: Engineering change coordinator, interior systems business group, Fountain Inn
2000-2002: Development engineer for instrument panels, Detroit, Michigan, USA