Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Times are tough for everyone in the auto industry, but one speaker at this year’s automotive conference lets the audience know he has faced more than his share of turmoil since a very young age.

Samir Salman, CEO of Continental AG’s North American automotive business, spoke here at the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars about growing up in Iraq, a nation well-acquainted with instability. His mother German and his father, Iraqi.

“Even before Saddam Hussein came into power, Iraq was an unstable environment,” Salman recalls from the days of his youth. His family left Iraq for Germany when he was 17 just as Iraq was sinking into political chaos.

“I would go to school, and it seemed that every day a different classmate or teacher would not be there. No explanations were offered,” Salman says.

“And questions were met with clear discomfort and then, non-responses. Even worse were the ones that would return after a while as broken people.”

His childhood experience sharpened his insights into the “factor of fear,” something many supplier executives understand all too well.

“Now I find myself, ironically, in an environment that reminds me of those times, though by no means as evil and horrific,” Salman says.

“Whatever my experience taught me is that however tough and turbulent our industry is now, this is a temporary period that we will get through,” he says.

Suppliers everywhere are “facing the factor of fear in just about every direction we look,” and there are many things to fear: risk, failure, lack of control and the loss of employee motivation.

Salman urges industry executives to accept the need for change – to close plants, eliminate jobs and “reset” organizations and manufacturing capacity.

“Our industry will survive,” he says.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com