Auto industry investor Wilbur Ross Jr. continues to divest his business assets now that he is U.S. secretary of commerce. And as he does, the biggest automotive supplier company in his portfolio is mapping out a new future of its own.
International Automotive Components Group, founded by Ross and 61 percent owned by his former WL Ross & Co. investment, is recuperating from what it calls a "very rocky year" in 2015 that included unsuccessfully trying to sell the business, losing customer trust and missing earnings expectations by $100 million.
IAC is now refocusing its operations and products, phasing out nonautomotive activity and claiming record earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortization.
"We've gotten out of the ditch and we are doing very well going forward," CEO Steve Miller said last week during a phone interview. "We are going to continue to be a major force in the automotive interiors space going forward."
IAC, which supplies automakers with cockpits, instrument panels, flooring and acoustics, recorded a record amount of new business in the first quarter of 2017 — more than $4 billion in sales for the life of the programs — following all-time revenue of more than $6 billion in 2016, Miller said. It also achieved record liquidity in 2016. He declined to provide specific financial figures for the privately-held supplier.
IAC — No. 43 on Automotive News' list of the top global original equipment part suppliers in 2014 and 2015 — had been experiencing substantial growth since Ross formed the company in 2006. But by 2015 when the billionaire investor contacted Miller to lead IAC, the company was spreading itself too thin.
"We were experiencing operational difficulties in launching new products at four of our facilities," Miller said of IAC's 2015 problems. "The momentum had come to a grinding halt."
Ross, 79, had already stepped down as chairman of the board in 2014 and was no longer directly involved in IAC's business operations. He remained affiliated as the company's chairman emeritus when he hired Miller, whose career includes CEO roles at Delphi, Federal-Mogul and Bethlehem Steel.
Miller, 75, promised the board that he and his management team could turn IAC into "something of much greater value" if given the time.
Miller's early moves include cutting production of some non-core business assets, such as washing machine fascias and snowmobile parts, to focus on high-margin automotive components. He also streamlined decision-making by cutting his direct reports from 17 to four.