Small Company, Big Plans Mathson could be the smallest Tier 1 ever It's not every day that I talk with a company president who writes his own press releases. Or has only 15 employees. Or has only three presses running inside just one production facility.

And most supplier chief executives I chat with boast that their sales are way up - generally beyond the $1 billion mark. But Boney (pronounced "Bonnie") Mathew is different. He knows his privately held company is so new as a parts producer that he would prefer we change the subject when asked what his sales were for 2000.

Mr. Mathew is president and chief executive of Mathson Industries of Troy, MI. An entrepreneur at heart, he has good ideas, grand aspirations and a salesman's charm.

An engineer by trade, Mr. Mathew still gets his hands dirty. At 37, he has energy to burn, going the last four years without a vacation.

Born in India, Mr. Mathew swept floors at age 10 in one of his father's rubber factories. Over the next five years, he was mixing metals, running rubber extruding machines and training to become a formulation chemist. By 15, he ran a polymers business for his father, overseeing 30 employees.

He came to the U.S. four years later and earned a plastics engineering degree. Mr. Mathew entered the auto industry in 1988 at Teleflex Automotive Group. In 1995, he started Mathson Industries as a consulting and systems engineering company. One of his first jobs was to build a new plant in Madison Heights, MI, for his former employer, Teleflex.

Soon, he was dabbling with an innovative concept - using the same press to produce automotive parts made of different materials, namely plastics, ceramics and powder metal.

After first setting up these manufacturing systems for other companies, Mr. Mathew decided in 1999 to manufacture parts himself. With automakers eager to source parts to minority-owned suppliers, he got plenty of encouragement.

For now, Mathson has three presses producing ceramic exhaust components, plastic fuel-line connectors and powder-metal parts for exhaust-gas recirculation (EGR) systems.

Mr. Mathew says his 560-ton press is the largest in the world to produce both powder injection-molding (PIM) and plastic parts. His goal is to produce a powder-metal exhaust manifold - an ambitious goal given that most PIM parts are much smaller.

Mathson's current home and sole production site is a humble, 16,000-sq.-ft. (1,500-sq.-m) plant near a bowling alley. A Tier 2 supplier for now, Mr. Mathew expects to have a parts contract with an automaker by Labor Day, making Mathson quite possibly the smallest Tier 1 supplier ever.

Next year, Mathson plans to open a new plant in Michigan that could measure up to 100,000 sq. ft. (9,300 sq. m) and house 10 presses.

Mr. Mathew already has five contracts for the plant - three of them for plastic parts and the other two for powder metal components.

One of his proudest achievements as a partsmaker is a clutch pedal assembly that goes into production later this year for a Big Three truck. Usually, a clutch pedal is made of steel and requires assembly of as many as six parts. Mathson manages to produce the pedal in plastic, reducing weight by 40% and requiring only three parts to be assembled.

Boney Mathew has proven that the auto industry doesn't have to be overrun by ubiquitous, multinational corporations. Occasionally, the efforts of one person can shine through the haze.

F-M Gets New Money, CEO, Asbestos Plan Retirement must have been boring Frank Macher to tears because assuming the top job at beleaguered Federal-Mogul Corp. is no walk in the park. Mr. Macher, who retired from ITT Automotive in 1998 when the operations were sold off, becomes chief executive officer at Federal-Mogul, replacing interim CEO Robert Miller, who becomes executive chairman. Mr. Macher, 59, will keep the post until July 2002, when he assumes the executive chairmanship. Also, Charles McClure, former head of Detroit Diesel Corp., becomes president and chief operating officer. He replaces Mr. Macher as CEO in 2002. The appointments were made after Federal-Mogul, trying to quiet persistent rumors of bankruptcy, secures an additional $550 million in credit that should keep the supplier solvent until 2004, assuming the company is close to its earnings projections. Federal-Mogul also has a new legal strategy to deal with asbestos claims independent of a 14-company consortium and to investigate claims more thoroughly before agreeing to a payout. The company paid $338 million in 2000 for asbestos liability and is expected to pay another $350 million this year.

Around the Industry GenCorp completes the acquisition of Draftex Int'l Car Body Seals, creating North America's largest supplier of vehicle sealing systems. The $198 million deal includes the Draftex Worldwide Headquarters and International European Technical Center in Dusseldorf, Germany, and 11 manufacturing plants in Germany, France, Spain, China, Czech Republic and the U.S. employing 5,500 people. ... The TRW board of directors elects David Cote, 48, as president and chief executive officer. Mr. Cote had been president and chief operating officer and replaces Joseph Gorman, 63, who remains chairman until his July 31 retirement.