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Published: Sunday, 9/11/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

CEO aims to rebuild Dana Holding Corp.

Technology is top priority for automotive supplier's chief

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Roger Wood, CEO of Dana Holding Corp., poses at the company's offices in Maumee on Thursday. Roger Wood, CEO of Dana Holding Corp., poses at the company's offices in Maumee on Thursday.
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Before Roger Wood became Dana Holding Corp.’s chief executive officer in April, he was the consummate company man — for a different company.

Now, nearly six months after taking over the $6.1 billion Maumee-based global vehicle parts supplier, the 49-year-old first-time CEO has traded in the turbochargers and engine components of his 26-year former employer — BorgWarner Inc. of Auburn Hills, Mich. — for Dana’s axles and drive shafts. He is preparing to make his mark on metro Toledo’s second-largest company.

“Dana is a very well-known company in the automotive industry. It has a great reputation, and it has a name brand that is recognized around the world,” Mr. Wood told The Blade last week in a one-on-one interview from his spartan corner office at the company’s headquarters next to U.S. 23/I-475 in Maumee.

“In making my decision to come to Dana, part of it was because of the historical significance of the Dana brand, and the attraction that Dana had for me to help rebuild the company to the stature that it once was. That was the real attraction for me — to be part of the rebuilding of a great name.”

ince becoming CEO, Mr. Wood has spent the majority of his time traveling to visit Dana facilities in Europe, Asia, and North America to assess where the company is as well as where it needs to go. During those visits — he hasn’t yet been to South America, but will soon, he said — Mr. Wood said he’s made a point to visit with both Dana employees and the executives of the supplier’s major customers.

“When I got here, I hit the road. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the different aspects of the company,” he explained. “I tried to, in the first three months, get as holistic of a picture as I could of the Dana organization, and the view that our customers had of the Dana organization in every region of the world.”

What he found was a company still recovering from both its 2008 bankruptcy and the 2009 worldwide collapse of the automotive industry, but one with a renewed and growing focus on developing technological answers to customer needs.

“I came in from a company that was focused on technology, and I’ve believed in all my years in the industry that having a technology basis in order to solve customer problems is really the recipe for success in any company in this industry. I was impressed with some of the foundational technology that was here at Dana,” said the CEO, who began his career as an automotive engineer.

Prior to joining Dana, Mr. Wood did something not totally uncommon within the automotive industry: work for only one company.

Shortly after graduating from State University College in Buffalo, Mr. Wood was hired at BorgWarner in 1985 as a manufacturing engineer in the Auburn Hills, Mich.-based company’s Morse TEC division, which makes products such as engine timing chains.

He quickly climbed the corporate ladder and by 1995, when he was 32, he was named vice president of operations for both the Morse TEC division and the company’s transmission components operations. He had other advancements and in 2005 took over the company’s turbo and emissions systems division, a job that included responsibility over its global operations headquartered in Kircheimbolanden, Germany, and operations in the United States, United Kingdom, Hungary, Brazil, Japan, China, Korea, and India.

Craig Ellis, president of NEA Automotive Inc., an automotive executive search firm based in metro Detroit, said Mr. Wood’s long tenure with BorgWarner was not unusual in the industry and is a resume trait shared with “some of the highest-performing people” in the industry.

“I think it’s the correct way to build an important and effective career,” Mr. Ellis said.

“The auto business is without question the most dynamic, difficult, arduous industry on planet earth,” he said. “People outside the car business don’t understand it because it is so vast and so complicated. It’s dynamic and vigorous, and the stakes are enormous. At [49] years old, he’s going to have the vigor and the energy to take on a company like that. I love to see guys in the prime of their career become CEO of an important company like Dana.”

r. Wood, who with his wife and family lives in a northern Detroit suburb, is seeking to bring stability to the top spot at Dana. Since the company emerged from bankruptcy in January, 2008, it has had four CEOs.

n April, Mr. Wood replaced interim CEO John Devine, a former executive of both Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., who retired from the position of Dana’s executive chairman on June 30. Mr. Devine had stepped in again on an interim basis after Dana’s previous CEO, James Sweetnam, “resigned by mutual agreement” suddenly on Nov. 4. CEO Mike Burns had taken Dana into and shepherded it through Chapter 11, but left afterward. Gary Convis, a former executive of Toyota Motor Corp., also had a nine-month stint as CEO.

Mr. Wood’s compensation package includes a base salary of $950,000 and a potential performance bonus of $712,500 to $1.09 million. He also is entitled to annual incentive stock grants of up to 400 percent of his annual salary and one-time cash awards of up to $2 million.

That compensation could grow if Dana is able to leverage the research it’s doing in its laboratories into marketable products that will help its customers shed weight in their vehicles and improve fuel economy.

“We are working on a number of things that we believe have some good potential in the marketplace,” he said “Which one or which ones of those products will eventually come to market first, we’re not sure yet.

We want to make sure our technologies are focused on helping our customers achieve their fuel economy needs. If we can do that, we’ll provide a value to our customers that will provide the growth for our company, and that will be the foundation that I believe will lead to success for us.”

Dana’s earnings have recovered with the automotive industry. For 2010, the company reported a loss of $22 million, better than its loss of $463 million the year before. The Maumee company had sales last year of $6.1 billion, up 17 percent from 2009’s.

In its most recent earnings report in July, Dana said it had a profit of $61 million, up from $1 million for the period a year earlier. It had quarterly sales of  $1.9 billion, up 25 percent from a year earlier.

Since Mr. Wood took the helm at Dana, the company’s share price has faltered along with the broader market and the automotive sector in general. Dana’s stock price has fallen 30 percent since April 18, when it opened at $16.63, compared to the $11.72 a share it closed at on Friday. By comparison, its chief auto sector competitor, American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc., has seen its stock fall from $11.19 to $7.74 during the same period. The Dow Jones Transportation Average, which includes shares of a number of Dana’s primary customers and industry competitors, has fallen 17 percent since April 18.

Mr. Wood’s impact on Dana’s global operations is already being felt, according to Brian Johnson, an automotive industry analyst with Barclays Capital in New York.

In a report to investors this summer, Mr. Johnson credited Mr. Wood and other senior Dana managers for a comprehensive strategy to improve its profit margins in its truck segment, for expanding the scope and reach of its new “power technologies” business that provides materials for innovative vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt, and for focusing on expansion in its off-highway segment.

“As a result, we remain comfortable with [Dana’s] earnings power through 2013, despite the continued pressure in commercial vehicles, but we see [earnings] coming from different sources,” Mr. Johnson wrote.

Dana “remains one of the most compelling value stocks in our coverage, and increasingly a growth story due to its rapidly increasing emerging market exposure.”

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:
 lvellequette@theblade.com or
419-724-6091



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