David Herberg, 45
Vice president engineering EMEA, Adient
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I was hired at a management consultancy. For my first project, I was assigned to a team supporting an automaker with a cost-reduction initiative. This wasn’t an assignment I would have picked. However, I obviously ended up liking it.
Your greatest achievement?
The past two years have been incredibly tough for the entire automotive industry and especially for suppliers. It has been a time of uncertainty, job loss, changes in priorities, vital risks for the company as well as for our employees. At Adient, I believe we reacted to these changes as one team, with agility, and with our employees and customers in mind. We advanced in the way we work to reinforce alignment without travel. We changed our innovation priorities and put a strong focus on sustainability. We reduced costs in virtually all parts of our organization. At the same time, we improved our program execution and built stronger bonds with our customers. We put heavy focus on communication. Today, we are stronger than before when it comes to customer satisfaction, team utilization and employee engagement. I humbly believe that I contributed to that success and hope that we can stay on track. We know the challenges will continue.
Family: Daughters, Johanna, 12, Josefine, 9
Born: Leverkusen, Germany
Languages: German, English, French
Education: Doctorate and bachelor’s degree in engineering, Technical University of Berlin; bachelor’s degree in business administration, Ecole Superieure de Commerce, Toulouse, France
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Several years ago, I was assigned to a new position and took responsibility for a team that had one member whom I found unreliable, unprofessional and not transparent in decision making. Still, he had a good reputation with some very vocal colleagues who had much more experience than I had at the time. It took me more than a year to trust my judgement. Once I finally did, the result was very positive. Now I’m committed to never again be slow in staffing a team that I truly believe in.
What is your current challenge at work?
It’s coping with the speed of change in technology. That includes autonomous driving, electrification as well as sustainability. Then there is the overall workload. There is COVID, the semiconductor shortage and the war in Ukraine. We have to maintain a high level of cost efficiency.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Whatever you do, make sure it is sustainable.
2020-present: Vice president engineering for Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA), Adient, Burscheid, Germany
2019-2020: Vice president commercial, Adient, Burscheid
2016-2019: Executive director commercial vehicle seating, Adient, Burscheid
2013-2016: Executive director trim engineering and program management, Adient, Burscheid
2011-2013: Director change office, Adient, Burscheid
2003-2011: Consultant, McKinsey & Company, Hamburg and Berlin, Germany
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Come join us if you can contribute to the industry’s need to push for a sustainable and safer future.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I don’t want to say because my boss may realize I’m after his position.
What do you do to relax?
I enjoy woodworking, biking and gardening.
What is your dream location to live?
I would love to live in a self-built hut in South Tyrol, which is in northern Italy. For me, the higher up the mountain, the better.
What is your favorite driving song?
“Put Your Money on Me” by Arcade Fire.
What was your favorite road trip and why?
For eight weeks we toured the U.S. West in a camper. We visited the Yosemite, Arches, Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks. It was a moving experience to be in the presence of so much breathtaking natural beauty.
What was your first car?
A white, second-generation Volkswagen Golf with an automatic transmission.
A Volvo XC60 plug-in hybrid.