Frederic Sipahi, 38
CEO air & cooling and filtration business units , Sogefi
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I started as a plant controller at PSA/Peugeot-Citroen’s factory in Mulhouse, France, in 2004.
Born: Ankara, Turkey
Nationality: French and Turkish
Languages: French, Turkish, English, some German and Italian
Education: Master’s degree in finance and controlling, University of Haute-Alsace, Mulhouse, France.
I grew up near the factory and always dreamed about working there because I was amazed by the size of the buildings. I also liked the smell and the noises the plant made as 15,000 people built 400,000 cars a year. After I graduated the first place I went to apply for a job was that factory. I got a job.
Your greatest achievement?
My greatest professional achievement is managing the turnaround of Sogefi’s air & cooling business unit. When I started, the unit was having troubles operationally, financially and strategically. One of my first challenges was to build a strong and efficient management team. Together we solved operational issues affecting our quality and supply chain. As a result, we have improved profitability every year. I’m grateful to my company for giving me this opportunity.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
I didn’t build a strong team that I could trust right away. I was slow to replace people even when I knew they weren’t right for the job and didn’t have the proper mindset. Looking back, I should have made these changes faster. I learned that if you don’t have a strong team you have to do a lot by yourself and doing it alone doesn’t help you achieve your targets. When your team is good, you will achieve great things.
What is your current challenge at work?
I am responsible for two business units that are geographically pretty far apart and in different time zones. Every day I have to make numerous decisions, and I have to make them fast even though I know that any mistake could have far-reaching consequences. That means my biggest challenge is to be as efficient as possible. I can’t do everything so I need to carefully choose which jobs I will do myself, how much time I will dedicate to these tasks and which jobs I will delegate.
2015-2019: CEO air & cooling business unit, Sogefi, Orbey
2013-2015: Chief financial officer engine systems business unit, Sogefi, Guyancourt
2012-2013: Controller of air & cooling business unit, Sogefi, Orbey
2007-2012: Plant financial controller, Faurecia, Montbeliard, France
2004-2007: Plant controller, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Mulhouse, France
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The speed with which things are changing. These changes can be opportunities or threats.
For many years, things were stable, but it is clear that those days are over and many more changes are ahead. From autonomous cars, electrification, digitalization, to the rise of new players in the automotive industry. It’s going to be fun.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Always remember the people who helped you become who you are.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Be ready to give it all of your energy and be ready to start again from scratch. It’s a race that never ends. You have to really like this industry.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I would like to have my own automotive company.
What do you do to relax?
I spend time with my family and play with my kids. And I really like to play video games.
What is your pet peeve?
I really don’t like to wait. I also dislike long meetings.
What was your first car?
A Peugeot 205. I still consider it to be legendary.
My company car is a Mercedes-Benz C class. My personal vehicle is a BMW 4 series.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be a BMW i8. Maybe this Rising Star award will inspire my boss to give me one as my company car?