Troy, Mich. — Lon Offenbacher is the president and CEO of Inteva Products LLC, a Tier 1 automotive supplier with a global workforce surpassing 9,000 employees across more than 30 locations that stretch from Canada and Mexico to Germany and China.
As the company's top executive, Offenbacher has spent the last 12 years steering Inteva through macroeconomic and automotive industry-specific ups and downs ranging from the 2007-09 recession that devastated labor markets and the U.S. economy to the United Auto Workers' weekslong strike against General Motors Co. last year.
That strike rippled through the supply chain, rocking Inteva as well as others.
"It had an impact on us," Offenbacher said during an interview at Inteva's world headquarters in Troy. "GM is not our biggest customer, but they're a big customer to us, and they're an important customer."
It wasn't the first time in 2019 that GM shook up the business, however.
In response to the Detroit automaker's plans to end production at its Oshawa assembly plant in Canada, about 100 unionized workers at an Inteva facility in Whitby, Ontario, walked off the job last January, according to a report by Automotive News, a sister publication of Plastics News. Workers returned to the job site a day later.
"We've got a plant that is pretty much dedicated to a customer and then that customer decides, well, they're leaving," he said of Inteva's Oshawa operations. "I'd say that the machinations of our customers do affect us. … It's always painful, but we always try and reduce the amount of pain that is inflicted."
But Offenbacher's strategic maneuvering around these matters — some of which can be predicted, though others are often sudden and unexpected — is a reason among many that the executive has been named Plastics News' 2019 Automotive Newsmaker of the Year.