The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
PUTTING CANADIAN SUPPLIERS ON THE GLOBAL MAP
Automobiles have plenty of plastic and composite parts, and many of those are made in molds from Canadian companies.
As executive director of the Windsor, Ont.-based Canadian Association of Moldmakers (CAMM) and its Automate Canada trade association arm, Diane Deslippe makes sure those businesses are noticed.
“We do a lot of lobbying around the world to help with exports. Most [members] are small to medium shops, and they need help with trade shows and a global platform. We bridge the gap so companies can expand their businesses into other countries.”
Deslippe, 64, studied sports sciences but initially got an office job at steel producer Algoma Steel. She coached gymnastics in her spare time, which became full time with positions in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. Returning to Ontario, she began at CAMM in 2004.
“I had no experience with mold makers, but I did with steel. And I had 15 years in sports associations, so I knew how not-for-profit worked and how to keep the members happy. I spent a lot of time in their shops learning what the products were.
“I work with governments on different things. Right now I’m chairing a COVID report that will go to government, to help them understand what our needs are going through this process.”
Until she recently got an assistant, Deslippe was CAMM’s sole office employee, working in conjunction with the board. She works out of rented offices in a high-tech logistics centre and a trade school, and she brings students in to encourage them to consider the field.
“We show them the new technologies and new cars. They think you must have a degree, but I say no, every opportunity is around the corner. I knew nothing about the job but said I’d try it, and look where it took me.”
A BROAD BACKGROUND GIVES THE ABILITY TO SWITCH
At GM Canada in Oshawa, Ont., he’s in charge of developing partnerships and solutions as senior manager of EV Charging and Infrastructure Canada.
But when COVID-19 struck, Ian Soutter, 54, was given a different responsibility: turning part of Oshawa’s shuttered assembly plant into a mask factory.
“I was aware of [the coronavirus] early on because my wife is a pharmacist, and she knew it wasn’t going to be a short-term issue. I was a supporter of GM having a role to play.”
His father worked at GM, and Soutter initially came in as an engineering co-op student. He started as a controls engineer, and over the years his positions included maintenance, production and labour relations. In 2016, he was the project lead when the Oshawa plant switched to assembling pickups from building the Equinox.
He said the plant’s closure was “tough and emotional, but it led to opportunity. Life throws you curves, and it’s what you do with them that counts. I moved from manufacturing into the growth of our business, which is the charging infrastructure rollout and the move to electrification.”
GM’s facility in Warren, Mich., had set up a mask operation, and he called on his contacts there for guidance.
“I took the skills I had learned setting up manufacturing operations and switched gears to building masks. We took some of Warren’s designs and put it together. It was the fastest-moving project in my career: three weeks and one day from the first purchase order for equipment to start of production.”
His degrees in engineering play a role in his success, but “I’m a team builder, and that’s critical. I assemble a team to take advantage of everyone’s competency. I can get people to achieve more than they thought they could.”
SEAT TIME IS EVERYTHING TO SELLING A VEHICLE
A major part of publicizing a vehicle is getting it into the hands of automotive writers, and that’s the point of MediaFleet Canada in Mississauga, Ont.
The company manages press fleets and assists with events for companies including Ford, Hyundai, Nissan an Maserati, and it works as “a marketing arm for the automakers to provide extra coverage and information,” said President Bhu Kapur.
“We schedule the drives, clean the cars and provide a more effective method of getting cars to the end users. For the high-end cars, we’ll do a ‘white glove’ service, delivering it with a full walk-through like the new-buyer experience for journalists or social media influencers.”
Kapur, 52, grew up in British Columbia and Ontario He got a degree in physiology from the University of Toronto and then worked as a computer systems analyst.
“I got bored and left to become a photographer, doing weddings and portraits. I was self-taught in photography by taking pictures of cars.”
In 2011, he began as a parttime driver for BHG, a media fleet company run by founder Richard Pickering.
“I was burning out from photography and preferred the cars, so I got more involved in that. Richard didn’t have the technology, and I helped create the computer systems and [brought] the company online Then Richard got ill, and he asked me to run the business.
Pickering died in 2017, and later that year Kapur launched MediaFleet.
“I think we’re good at this because we built good relation ships with the end users and the manufacturers, and we’re a bridge between the two. We have a good reach, and we’re reactive and mobile. If somebody wants a car tomorrow, we can do that.”