Onofrio Defina, 45
Chief operating officer EMEA and general manager Italy, UFI Filters
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I started at GM-Fiat Worldwide Purchasing as a cost reduction team driver. I had to coordinate a team with different people and skill sets. We had a specific goal and it was my first challenge. Cost-cutting had to be applied immediately and the company wanted to see instant results. When it comes to products and production processes, the automotive world is highly competitive and I find it very stimulating.
Family: Wife, Gabriella; sons, Giulio, 11, Matteo, 9
Born: Carmagnola, Turin, Italy
Languages: Italian, English, French
Education: MBA, University of Turin, Turin, Italy; master’s degree in integrated business management with specialty in operations management, CUOA Business School, Vicenza, Italy; bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering, Polytechnic of Turin, Turin, Italy
Your greatest achievement?
This came in September 2006 when I was appointed to international development responsible for Fiat’s business in India. The goal was to build and stabilize the purchasing activities at Fiat’s joint venture with Tata Motors. This wasn’t easy because there were many variables, beginning with the challenges of operating in India, the different business cultures at Fiat and Tata. Everything was new and everything had to be built from the ground up.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
My biggest failure came when I didn’t split strategic business volume between two suppliers. I didn’t vet the financials of a supplier I picked thoroughly enough. It turned out that this supplier had huge financial problems. I had to come up with a financial recovery plan for the supplier as well as find another company to buy it to keep the company in business. The lesson I learned was to always do a deep financial dive when accessing a supplier and, if possible, to split the work between two suppliers.
What is your current challenge at work?
We are going through a very disruptive time within the automotive industry. It’s changing its own DNA and ushering in a new era of mobility. Cars will become a shared commodity; powertrains are being reinvented. There are so many future variables that need to be considered. I look at every day as a new challenge. My professional spirit wants to assure the company we are successfully transitioning from the automotive industry’s old ways to the new era. I get my inspiration from these words from Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
2019-present: Chief operating officer EMEA and general manager Italy, UFI Filters, Nogarole Rocca, Verona, Italy
2017-2019: Group purchasing director, UFI Filters, Nogarole Rocca
2015-2017: EMEA purchasing director, UFI Filters, Nogarole Rocca
2012-2015: Purchasing and supplier quality director, Faiveley Transport, Turin, Italy/Gennevilliers (Paris), France
2009-2012: Chemical commodity specialist manager, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Turin, Italy/Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA
2006-2009: International development for India JV, Fiat, Turin/Ranjangaon-Pune, India
2004-2006: Product development, Fiat, Turin/Melfi, Italy
2003-2006: Cost reduction team driver, GM-Fiat Worldwide Purchasing, Turin/Ruesselsheim, Germany
2002-2003: Business development manager, Altran, Milan, Italy/Paris, France
2001-2002: Italian Army officer
What is the best advice you have ever received?
The best advice I have received was: It’s the details that make all the difference.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
It’s really general advice but it can be applied to many professional sectors: Always be very curious and let your work be driven by a dream.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I would like the chance to lead an international company into the future using an innovative vision that includes the market’s most important technologies.
What do you do to relax?
I love to walk and to go hiking. For me it’s the best way to relax.
What is your dream location to live?
Palo Alto, California
What is your favorite driving song?
I don’t really have a favorite song; however, I do enjoy rock music.
What was your favorite road trip and why?
My favorite road trip led me through California and Nevada. I drove long distances without being rushed and got to experience the best of the area’s natural beauty. However, the most inspiring place to visit was Palo Alto, California. To me it’s the place where innovation changes the world.
What was your first car?
When I was 20 years old, I bought a Fiat Punto 75 ELX using money earned from summer jobs. It was white because that was the cheapest color. I was so proud of it.
An Audi A6.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be a DeLorean, also known as the time machine in the Hollywood movie “Back to the Future.” I appreciate the car’s design because it combines knowledge from the past with a vision of the future.