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

Image

ADS launches public trading on NYSE

July 25, 2014 10:41 am ET

Advanced Drainage Systems, the world's largest producer of thermoplastic corrugated pipe, made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange today with 14....    More

Image

Gear pump maker Witte expands in Germany and USA

July 25, 2014 2:15 pm ET

Witte Pumps & Technology GmbH, the German maker of gear pumps for extrusion, has moved into a new headquarters factory in the Hamburg area, and the...    More

Image

Sealed Air's move to Charlotte will put it all under 'One Roof'

July 25, 2014 2:03 pm ET

Sealed Air Corp. shook the ground last week by announcing plans to relocate its headquarters from Elmwood Park, N.J., to Charlotte, N.C., in a move...    More

Image

Austrian mold maker seeking North American manufacturing partner

July 25, 2014 1:49 pm ET

An Austrian mold maker is looking for a manufacturing location in North America.    More

Image

Crain named to Automotive Hall of Fame

July 25, 2014 1:29 pm ET

Keith Crain, chairman of Crain Communications Inc. — parent of Plastics News — was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame July 24 along...    More

Market Reports

Plastics Recyclers Data Report & Directory

This exclusive MS Excel database contains all the companies from Plastics News' ranking of top North American Recyclers and Brokers by reprocessed volume and also includes a directory with materials processes, services offered and company contact information. Data is based on primary research by PN editorial staff.

Learn more

2014 Injection Molding Industry Report

GROWTH, OPPORTUNITY IN SIGHT FOR INJECTION MOLDERS IN 2014

In the wake of the economic turbulence earlier in this decade, molders today find themselves in much better shape. Molders are gaining a competitive advantage by investing in people, equipment and seeking inroads into new markets on a global scale.

Growth in the injection molding industry is going to be driven by low financing costs and a continued move to reshore some business.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

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

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events