The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
TREASURE FROM TRASH WILL BECOME TREAD
It’s one thing to come up with a new way to recycle materials, and quite another to market them. Jocelyn Doucet, CEO of Pyrowave in Montreal, has done both, partnering with Michelin to use recycled plastic as an ingredient in synthetic rubber for tires.
Over the next three years in Europe, Michelin will scale up Pyrowave’s proprietary process, which Doucet plans to commercialize and license to other companies. He also plans to sell equipment for production.
“I found only seven per cent of plastic waste generated is being recycled,” the 39-yearold said. “There were companies turning plastic to fuel, but we wanted something more sophisticated.”
Like his father, Doucet is a chemical engineer, and the two opened a food-processing company, which he took over in 2008. He wanted to develop recycling processes and by accident discovered a method for breaking plastics down and recovering their basic monomer molecules. This makes it easier to remove contaminants and create clean new styrene.
“In 2014 I created Pyrowave with my partner Jean-Philippe Laviolette. We studied together when doing our Ph.D.s. We created the patents and knowhow and got investors on board who were in a European venture capitalist firm.”
One of the partners in that firm was Michelin.
“They were aware we had a solution for producing renewable styrene, so when [the fund] invested in Pyrowave, we started talking about collaboration.”
Doucet’s company employs 16 people and he’s looking for more scientists and engineers to come on board.
“We have a lot of government support, especially through Sustainable Development Canada, and without it the project wouldn’t see the light of day,” he said.
“We know the process will work because we’ve been running it at scale in Montreal, but for any startup like us, having Michelin is a dream scenario. We’ve achieved the impossible.”
SERVICE IS SERVICE WHETHER IT’S MEALS OR MAINTENANCE
Most people wouldn’t equate a dealership with dining, but Michael Zeisman uses what he learned in the hospitality sector as a service adviser at Kelowna Nissan in British Columbia.
“I’m always empathetic. You have to understand where [customers are] coming from and be in their shoes, but also tell them this is what you need and why you need it, and believe in the product you’re selling.”
Zeisman, 43, took hospitality management courses in school.
“I started with Boston Pizza in Surrey [B.C.] as a dishwasher and delivery driver and worked my way up to general manager for about eight years.”
A friend presented him with an opportunity to work in Alberta’s oil fields but Zeisman didn’t like the isolation, “and the money isn’t everything. I then worked in a restaurant there, but the economy crashed in 2009 and nobody had any money for restaurants, so I looked for another job.”
With his hospitality background and love of cars, he became a service adviser at a GM dealership in Grand Prairie, Alta. Zeisman moved to a GMC competitor for six years but decided to return to British Columbia. After working with a Mazda dealer in Kamloops, he relocated 160 kilometres south to Kelowna and started his current job eight months ago.
“I’ve had 28 different vehicles, everything from show cars to beaters. I understand the mechanicals when I’m talking to customers. I use red-yellow-green, with green we don’t have to touch it, yellow is address it sooner rather than later and red is do it now.
“I have other advisers that may make more money than me, but my manager says if I did too much upsell, I’d lose a piece of me that brings the customers back.”
AHMED EL GANZOURI
FOCUSING HIS ENERGY ON SAVING ENERGY
As sustainability strategy manager at General Motors Canada, Ahmed El Ganzouri is laser-focused on helping the automaker with its environmental efforts.
“The goals are smart and achievable but also ambitious, with 50 per cent of our vehicle components made of sustainable materials by 2030 globally,” said El Ganzouri.
“We have to work with our engineers, designers, our electrification group and with marketing to see what [sustainable] materials [for parts and packaging] consumers want and make sure we have the best in terms of reliability.”
El Ganzouri, 31, completed a degree in environmental engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., and did an internship working on waste streams in GM’s CAMI plant in Ingersoll, 150 kilometres west of Toronto. He earned a spot at the United Nations University, a global think tank headquartered in Japan, and completed a degree in international development while working on drinking-water projects in Uganda and Kenya.
In 2014 he returned to GM as a full-time employee, including a stint with electric vehicles and autonomous technology before assuming his current role.
“A typical day is working with departments, finding out what support we can give to our suppliers. We leverage a lot of our supply base contacts,” he said.
“The fashion industry is bringing in sustainable leather, so we work with them. There’s a coalition of companies collecting plastic from the ocean, so we’re testing to see how it lives up to the vehicle’s life span.”
Packaging is another priority.
“We build auto parts for dealerships and it’s in 100 per cent sustainable packaging. That’s 6,000 parts and there’s so much impact.”
El Ganzouri leads GM’s energy group, which helps suppliers reduce their energy use, he said.
“We’ll go to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2040. I love big ideas and how I can drill them down to the actual implementation.”