Bahash is the president of Ride Control LLC, parent company of the
historic Gabriel brand. As president of Ride Control, Bahash is
responsible for leading the company’s accelerated plan for profitable
growth through customer-focused initiatives; championing strategic and
operational management; and ensuring optimum product quality and
performance from the manufacturing operations.
Before being appointed
to this position, she served as the general manager for Gabriel Global
Aftermarket within ArvinMeritor’s Light Vehicle Systems business group,
where she was responsible for achieving growth and profit targets,
rebuilding the Gabriel brand, and structuring an organization to
deliver new market opportunities globally. She joined the company in
March 2007 as director of technical planning. Prior to this, Bahash
spent five years at Visteon, as director of the electronics solutions
She also worked for Ford Motor Co. in a
variety of leadership positions. Bahash holds a Master of Engineering
Management from Wayne State University and a bachelor’s of science in
mechanical engineering from the University or Michigan. Bahash serves
on the engineering advisory board of Oakland University.
exclusive Executive Interview, Bahash talks about the transition that
has taken place with respect to the 103-year-old Gabriel brand since it
was spun-off from Arvin Meritor last year as well as her goals for
future of the business.
Gabriel became an independent company when
ArvinMeritor officially divested the business in the summer of 2009.
What has the transition been like since then?
closed on June 28 of 2009. The sale actually included a U.S. entity and
a Mexican entity and we had a delayed closing for our Mexico entity,
which was Aug. 24, 2009. The biggest push initially was to become one
organization a culture that would support a very nimble organization,
quick to market, quick decision making, focused solely on now the ride
control business as opposed to the matrix type of organization that
comes under a larger corporate structure. As such, we no longer have to
worry about other entities and their needs as we did when part of a
larger organization. We are solely focused on what we need to do for
Gabriel in the U.S., as well as in Canada and Mexico.
Can you tell us about what Gabriel’s manufacturing and distribution footprint look like right now?
majority of our manufacturing is done in our Mexican facility, which is
in Queretaro, about 2 1/2 hours north of Mexico City, and we actually
have three facilities there. There’s the main facility, where the
majority of the product is manufactured and assembled shocks and
struts, etc. Then, we have a secondary plant, which is a little smaller
and primarily focused on tube manufacturing. We have a brand-new tube
mill that we made an investment into last year. And, we have a very
small exhaust manufacturing business, which manufactures only for the
local Mexican market.
In addition, we have a facility in
Chickasha, Okla., which is our main distribution facility and also
provides rod manufacturing and some light assembly work. Primarily, one
of the big changes for the business that has occurred over the past
year or so is that we now manufacture a good portion of the two primary
components in ride control/shocks and struts and that’s rods and tubes.
you supplying only the North American market or is the company offering
products on a global level today? Pure aftermarket or OE supplier as
We’re global and we supply to both segments. We’re about
two-thirds aftermarket, one-third OE, where we do business with the
large retailers here in the U.S. as well as in Mexico and then the
traditional warehouse distribution model. We also do a good deal of
business in the commercial vehicle aftermarket. Then, from an OE
perspective, we primarily focus on the heavy truck business and other
niche OEs like snowmobiles, recreational vehicles, off-road equipment
and things of that nature.
Earlier you talked about being a
more nimble company. … Many large multi-brand, multi-segment
aftermarket manufacturers pared down to ‘core competencies’ in the past
few years in the midst of the economic recession. What are your
thoughts on this and how it will shape the future of the aftermarket?
still a good mix out there of the smaller companies focused on one or
two product lines as well as the larger organizations. Primarily, I
think the advantage that a smaller, focused organization has is that we
can bring more of a comprehensive product line together. For example,
we have a full range of products our catalog is very complete. We
introduced more than 300 part numbers with more than 1,600 new vehicle
applications in our new catalog that we announced at AAPEX (2009). We
look to know what’s going on with the vehicle population as it relates
specifically to our product line what the technology is, how we can
best leverage our buy for the components of that product and make sure
we have very targeted marketing to our customer base for that type of
replacement product and upgrade. So, we’re not spreading everything
very thin, like a larger organization might, to try to cover more. It’s
a little more targeted, and a little more efficient.
Do you find that customers prefer a full-line supplier or do you see a lot of ‘cherry picking’ going on?
think the opportunity is there for cherry picking but in general, most
customers want full-line coverage. So, coverage is extremely important
all the way from your fast movers down through your slow movers.
look for consistency in the product itself, from a
quality/manufacturing perspective brand consistency, pricing
consistency. So when they try to break it up or let somebody cherry
pick they open themselves up for some potential concerns and a lot more
management of the line especially when you have product that mixes,
such as chassis products. You wouldn’t want to buy one type of
component from somebody and another one from a different company you
have to make sure they work together.
Let’s talk about your customers and education how important is technician and consumer education to Gabriel?
very important. For the category as a whole, for ride control, the
education of consumer and installer is very important. It’s critical
for consumers to understand that they should be updating their ride
control and replacing it at 50,000 miles and that it does have an
impact on vehicle control and drivability. It’s not an area where you
can just let it go until it breaks. There are benefits to be had from
making the replacement in a timely manner (50,000 miles).
course, from the technician perspective, we focus on educating them on
how to do an appropriate install and how to do it safely; and how to
talk with customers about wear and tear on a vehicle how ride control
impacts tires and other chassis parts. So it’s not just the install but
making sure technicians can talk to customers about why they need to
replace their ride control products.
How has the company been
communicating its new independent status to the marketplace? And,
what’s the overall message you want people to know about the Gabriel
brand as it stands right now?
We put together a communication plan
that the sales team and the customer service team used to directly sit
down with our customers (or have a phone conversation with) to explain
the acquisition and also to explain that this is a very good thing for
Gabriel as a whole.
Primarily, again going back to the fact that we are
a more focused company, we know where our bread and butter is it is
in our customers and in ride control products, and doing the best we
can possibly do in that category. So building our brand the brand is
very strong. Gabriel has been around for 103 years and will continue to
We’re a focused organization we can do things very
quickly, hence our product coverage and expansion of that with the new
catalog. We look to constantly improve our processes and products as we
move forward and we look for opportunities in the marketplace in all
categories. And we’ve made a lot of investments in the business that
had not been made as part of a non-core operation in a large entity.
Can you expand on that a little?
know I keep talking about the new catalog but it’s a lot of investment
both engineering and tooling wise to bring out more and more
coverage, so we started that right off the bat. We wanted to make sure
we had complete coverage in some of the newer applications. We’ve made
quality improvements at our manufacturing facility, including two new
paint lines and the new tube mill and new machining for our rod
equipment and super-finishing of our rods in Chickasha, Okla. In just
about every area of the business, we’ve invested some amount into.
We’ve also put in a new ERP system to help us better run our operations
across all activities across our sites.
One area that is important
to the business where we see an increasing trend in, is ready mount
struts a sub-assemble of strut and mount and coil spring. It makes
installation a lot easier and more timely and that seems to be one of
the growth areas around ride control. Expect to see us introduce a
number of applications this year, similar to expanding our catalog
coverage last year.