WeatherTech a US success

H. Lee Murphy
CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS

Published: January 30, 2013 3:29 pm ET
Updated: January 30, 2013 3:41 pm ET

Image By: Crain's Chicago Business photos by Stephen J. Serio Dave MacNeil says his company's products, like the floor mats shown above, are proudly made in America.

Related to this story

Topics End Markets, Processes, Automotive, Injection Molding, Thermoforming

BOLINGBROOK, ILL. — The man behind WeatherTech floor mats, Dave MacNeil, is one serious car guy.

A tour of his company's west suburban Chicago manufacturing plants finds him behind the wheel of a BMW M5, reputedly the fastest four-door sedan out there, and then a Porsche, after a stop to show off his private museum of vintage Ferraris and Mercedes. The road trip ends at MacNeil Automotive Products Ltd.'s retail showroom in Bolingbrook, where a pristinely restored 1965 Aston Martin DB5 — the car Sean Connery drove as James Bond in Goldfinger — greets guests by the front door.

MacNeil is serious about something else, too: waving Old Glory.

In an age when much manufacturing has been outsourced to China and other low-wage nations, Weather­Tech's entire line of more than 5,000 car floor mats, rooftop cargo carriers, side-window deflectors, license plate frames and mud flaps is made in America, much of it in the 400,000 square feet of factory and warehouse space Bolingbrook and nearby in Downers Grove, Ill., he built in the past five years.

He reminds everyone of that fact in an almost-impossible-to-miss outpouring of print ads, billboards and television commercials.

The company is based in Bolingbrook, where it has thermoforming and injection molding operations. Engineering and tool­- making operations are in Downers Grove. WeatherTech Europe, a warehousing and sales operation, is based in Parma, Italy.

"Many of our competitors make their products in Asia, and we had that as an option," said MacNeil, 53, a former Daimler AG exec who founded his company in 1988 from his home in Clarendon Hills by importing car mats from England. "But I was born here and I've always had great faith in American workers. I just felt we could make better products in America."

MacNeil is fanatical about his made-in-America promise. Virtually every machine in the company's plants is made by an American tool supplier. MacNeil Auto­- motive Products employs 500 people, including 300 nonunion hourly workers, up from fewer than 100 overall 10 years ago. Though its facilities are highly automated, wages that average $20 an hour for semiskilled workers mean Weather-Tech's prices are high — as much as $100 for a pair of floor mats. Customers are paying up just the same.

"It's a great product, particularly if you have kids with muddy feet," said Gary Prestopino, a car parts analyst at Barrington Research Associates Inc. in Chicago who has WeatherTech mats in a couple of his cars.

MacNeil Automotive is 100 percent owned by MacNeil, who insists he harbors no ambition to sell in the foreseeable future. By his reckoning, sales have grown at a double-digit pace every year over the past decade and profits have never been a problem. Crain's estimated MacNeil Automotive's revenue topped $80 million in 2012.

The company, which quit importing from British suppliers five years ago, is now exporting to England and 20 other overseas markets, including South America and Asia. It also has moved more of its sales transactions online. Meanwhile, it's cementing more contracts with automakers themselves to supply WeatherTech mats as original equipment on new cars.

Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar is accustomed, like all mayors, to business owners demanding tax breaks and other goodies before bringing jobs to a town. But he said MacNeil has never asked for favors.

"He doesn't want government assistance. He wants to do it all himself. That's refreshing," Claar said.

While floor mats seem to be a commodity product, MacNeil Automotive's nonstop advertising sets WeatherTech apart from rivals: The product gets plugged in 100 print publications a month. "MacNeil is a marketing genius," said Peter MacGillivray, a vice president at the Specialty Equipment Market Association, a trade group in Diamond Bar, Calif. "They are everywhere with their advertising. They've raised the bar for everybody in their industry in the way they promote their brand."

MacNeil, who races cars in his spare time and sponsors races and race cars, is so fastidious about the control of each part of his operation that he even refuses to outsource marketing. Weather­Tech commercials are recorded by company employees on sets erected next to the warehouse. The phone lines ring at another company building down the block.

"I know it's not the way most companies are set up these days, but we don't use the word 'outsource' here at all," he said. "I like to do things my way."


Comments

WeatherTech a US success

H. Lee Murphy
CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS

Published: January 30, 2013 3:29 pm ET
Updated: January 30, 2013 3:41 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Negri Bossi's new owners may 'bring significant manufacturing' to US

April 16, 2014 1:09 pm ET

Italian plastics equipment major Negri Bossi may “bring significant manufacturing of injection molding machines back to the United...    More

Image

Polyair rebuilds from Sandy with help from Process Control

April 16, 2014 4:11 pm ET

Hurricane Sandy gutted Polyair Inter Pack Inc.'s Carlstadt, N.J., plant more than a year ago, and Brian Clawson won't soon forget the devastation.    More

Image

Adding flavor to capture sales

April 16, 2014 4:03 pm ET

Water bottles increasingly are designed and molded with filters and infusers to hold fruit, vegetables or herbs to give water a different taste.    More

Obituary: Shirish Patel, former Newell Rubbermaid purchasing director

April 16, 2014 3:55 pm ET

Shirish Patel, former director of purchasing at Newell Rubbermaid Corp. and a longtime plastics industry veteran, has passed away at age 70.    More

Huntingdon Fiberglass launching second line

April 16, 2014 2:18 pm ET

Huntingdon Fiberglass Products LLC is getting set to start up a second production line later this year and hire 15-20 new employees as it sees demand ...    More

Market Reports

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report provides analysis and discussions of economic and political conditions, market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies. In addition, there are reviews of 25 leading thermoformers in the packaging segment, assessing their growth initiatives and performance metrics over 10 years.

Learn more

Automotive Market Review and Outlook 2014 The Americas

This 75-page report features in-depth analysis of the automotive industry for the Americas. It includes discussions of market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting production and threats as well as design strategies being implemented by the major automakers. Detailed charts and data tables outline North American automotive production over the last five years.

Learn more

Plastics Building & Construction Market Review and Outlook 2014 with MS Excel chart data

This report provides in-depth analysis of the plastic building and construction market for North America, including discussions of trends, opportunities, threats and the latest developments in construction trends that impact plastics processors.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

May 6, 2014 - May 8, 2014Plastics in Medical Devices 2014

May 12, 2014 - May 12, 2014Plastics News Brazil Pharma Summit

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 3, 2015 - February 7, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events