MICHauto’s Stevens on WILS Discussing U.S.-Canada Border and Michigan Manufacturing

Glenn Stevens, executive director for MICHauto, joined “The WILS Morning Wake Up with Dave Ackerly” to discuss the recent joint statement from the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Windsor Essex Region Chamber of Commerce, and the Canada-U.S. Business Association calling on the Biden Administration to reopen the U.S. border to Canadian residents. Stevens also discussed the positive news that Michigan was ranked number one in the Business Facilities’ 17th annual Rankings Report for 2021, for the Automotive Manufacturing Strength category. MICHauto’s leadership over the past decade has been instrumental in promoting the state’s signature automobility industry by supporting innovation, talent attraction, and investment in Michigan.

Emerging Automotive Professional: Omron’s Danny Cervantes







Connect with Danny on LinkedIn.

Getting into Automotive 

What inspired you to go into the automotive and mobility field?

Endless opportunities:

  • Sales
  • Engineering
  • Business
  • Management

Did you grow up with family members in the automotive industry?


What interests led you to consider a career in automotive?

I’ve always been interested in cars. Focusing on mechanical engineering in college led me to grow that interest and exposed me to the new wave of automotive technology (mechanical vs. electric).

When were you first exposed to automotive?

I went through Omron’s technical sales program at our headquarters in Hoffman Estate, IL. After completing the program, the trainees were able to choose where we would like to move long-term. I chose Detroit because I knew I would be able to visit automotive plants and see the manufacturing process firsthand. The first automotive plant I visited was a door handle supplier. Prior to my position at Omron, I had a general impression of all the parts it takes to manufacture a vehicle, but I never took into account how precise the products needed to be made and the process for making them. After seeing the process, I thought “every single item on a car needs to be designed, manufactured, and examined somehow.” That’s what drove my automotive industry interest.

Growing up, what was your first impression of the automotive industry? How would you have described the industry?

Growing up, I had the stereotypical view of the automotive industry. I think my impression was probably similar to a lot of people who haven’t been exposed to it. I thought of things like steam engines, gas, gears, and coal. After getting to see what things really look like, I thought it was amazing how complex the technology and engineering design can be during each and every step of creating a product. Automotive plants are incredibly high-tech and the dollar investment in each plant is amazing.

What college did you attend, what was your major, and why did you choose that path?

  • California State University of Chico
  • Major: Mechanical Engineering
  • Minor: Anthropology
  • Started as a Theatre Arts major, switched to Psychology, then Sociology, then Anthropology, and finally landed on Mechanical Engineering.

Automotive Career: Then and Now 

What opportunities did you have in college that allowed you to explore or start your career in automotive, including any co-ops or internships? 

I had an internship at Promex Industries, and a student research internship for my senior project.

What was your first job post-college? 

My first job post-college was with Omron.

What was your role now? What projects and programs do you work on? What does a typical day look like?

I am a technical sales associate with Omron. I advance sales for Omron products in the Detroit, MI region.

A typical day involves:

  • Meeting in person with customers to view their plants and evaluate if there are potential problems that Omron products/engineers may help with.
  • Taking phone calls to solve problems and schedule meetings, and getting the correct people with different specialties involved.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I see myself starting to look into a management role, or another position with Omron.

Advice for Young Students 

Knowing what you know now, if you could give your younger self one tip or piece of advice, what would it be?

Have fun as much as you can before you are in your career. Take advantage of the time you have. Work hard and believe it will pay off.

What advice do you have for high school students who are interested in automotive, but unsure if it’s the career for them? 

Automotive doesn’t just mean engineering. Any type of work can be related to something in the automotive industry.

What is the best piece of advice you were ever given? 

Good things come with time. Be patient.

What do you love about working in the automotive industry (and specifically the automotive industry in Michigan)? 

I love how the community is connected throughout the state. It is exciting to work with people who know others that I may come into contact with at different companies. All the automotive companies in Michigan know each other and may have worked with each other in the past. Being in my position I use that to my advantage.

Do you participate in any organizations outside of work? Or have any hobbies (unrelated to automotive)? Do you feel the work-life balance in the auto industry allows you to continue these passions?  

While I am not part of any certified organizations, I like spending time with friends, being able to hike, travel, and workout. Work-Life balance is a necessity in my way of living and I feel the automotive industry allows me to take full advantage.


Got Talent? Global Detroit’s GTA Can Help

Finding and retaining top talent has been an ongoing challenge for the Michigan automotive and mobility industry. While many still perceive this industry as old-school and dated, the reality is much different as OEMs and suppliers race to implement the latest technology to improve quality and safety while meeting evolving consumer preferences. How can students and young professionals best prepare to contribute to this growing, global, inclusive, and high-tech industry in the face of a major transformation?

Students in the summer cohort of the Global Talent Accelerator (GTA), run by Global Detroit, learned the answer to that question in an open workshop lead by Carolyn Sauer, senior director of MICHauto. GTA is a soft-skills bootcamp for a small group of 15-20 STEM students. Through the summer program, students learn skills from experts on how to brand themselves in the U.S. job market, attend events and workshops tailored to improve their chances of employment, and get career coaching from professionals and mentors.

Guiqiu Wang, program manager of international talent and entrepreneurship for Global Detroit, felt it was important for this group of students to hear from MICHauto.

“I am very excited to have MICHauto lead this workshop on the mobility industry and job prospects in Michigan for international students. With the advancement of technology, the international students will greatly benefit from learning from MICHauto, the leading mobility organization, about what skills and capacities are needed to meet industrial needs,” said Wang.

The workshop was attended by 16 students, from eight different Michigan colleges and universities and ten different countries, that were highly engaged and asked several questions as Sauer shared the latest trends driving transformation of the industry, including connectivity, autonomy, and electrification. To exemplify the transformation, Sauer honed in on the electrification trend showing how fewer parts are needed as the industry moves away from internal combustion engines (ICE) toward electric vehicles (EV). Of special interest to the students, was the real-life case study comparing vehicle headlights from 1999 to 2020, highlighting that lighting products now have an element of software coding as enablers to autonomy.

In addition to the industry transformation, Sauer highlighted five things that the students can do today to jump start their career path:

  • Build your Network: Join LinkedIn, connect to people you know and young professionals, such as those featured in MICHauto’s branding campaign: Discover Auto: Connect with Emerging Professionals – MICHauto.
  • Be Informed: Learn about the industry through sources like Automotive News or detroitdriven.org.
  • Follow Trends: Stay current on trends in mobility and follow podcasts like Tech Talk by HELLA.
  • Be Flexible: Allow for flexibility in your journey and open to change as you grow in your career.
  • Be Collaborative: Work within teams to question the status quo and make your mark.

The summer 2021 cohort of students will graduate from the GTA program in a virtual ceremony on July 30, having learned insights from several professionals. Last year, 90% of the summer cohort was made up of STEM majors, 60% of whom were hired by Michigan companies within three months of graduating. For more information, visit Global Talent Accelerator – Global Detroit (globaldetroitmi.org).

Grow Detroit’s Young Talent: Mobility Challenge

Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT) is a citywide summer program led by the city of Detroit that trains and employs young adults who are residents of the city. GDYT, in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan, is offering a unique opportunity to 30 participants to learn app design and coding in a GDYT app showcase that is supported and facilitated by Apple. A team of Apple employees will guide participants as they learn how to build an app prototype that solves a local community challenge in the areas of hip hop, sustainable fashion, and mobility.

Glenn Stevens Jr., executive director of MICHauto, presented the mobility challenge to the participants. By starting with the history and background information on mobility and Detroit’s infrastructure, he led up to two essential questions: (1) how can technology improve communication, access to transportation, and a greater sense of community, and (2) how do we utilize existing forms of communication and create new ones that are tied together and enabled by the people?

Ultimately, the participants were presented with the challenge to create ideas, improved communication tools, and technology enablers that can connect transportation and people in order to improve access to health care, education, employment, and life. The challenges are purposefully broad to spark creativity and generate new ideas to solve these challenging community issues.

As students develop their app designs and prototypes, they have the opportunity to connect with community experts and ask questions about the challenges. To provide the students with additional resources and perspectives on the mobility challenge, MICHauto has asked Mark de la Vergne, vice president of project development at Cavnue, and Brandon Tucker, associate vice president of workforce and community development at Washtenaw Community College, to act as mentors. As a mentor they will use their experience and knowledge to respond to inquiries from students and provides support as needed.

At the end of the 6-week program, students will present their app prototypes in a showcase. However, more importantly, students will walk away with an in-demand skill they can develop further into a career, as well as valuable soft skills.

Cost of Living – Why Michigan?

When considering career choices, it’s important to consider location. Students and young professionals may like the idea of living in California – beaches, sun, and warm weather – however, they need to consider the cost of living and the lifestyle they want to maintain. The median salary for an engineer in Detroit is $94,525 and $110,694 in Los Angeles. After factoring in the cost of living, an engineer would need to make 65% more to maintain their same lifestyle in LA as in the Detroit region. Additionally, the average apartment rent per month is over $1500 more in LA than Detroit. Health care, gas and groceries are also more expensive in LA, as shown in the chart below.

In 2019, there were 7,676 more engineers in LA than Detroit, however, there is a higher concentration in Detroit (LQ 3.05) than LA (LQ 0.97) as evident by their respective location quotients measuring concentration. In fact, engineers are less concentrated in LA than the rest of the nation on average (LQ <1). Therefore, students and young professionals who are looking for employment as an engineer will be able to tap into the talent pool in Detroit, where engineers are employed at a greater rate than a typical region. In addition, based on the cost of living they will be able to maintain a higher standard of living.

The Michigan Opportunity Podcast: Glenn Stevens Jr. of MICHAuto and the Detroit Regional Chamber

MICHauto’s mission is to protect, retain, and grow Michigan’s signature automotive industry and is the state’s only automotive and mobility cluster association. Join Glenn Stevens Jr. and host Ed Clemente as they discuss the variety of the parts that make up the mosaic of MICHauto’s focus. Through four points, Stevens will identify how they are helping to grow the next-generation mobility industry, plus hear more about the PlanetM Landing Zone. Also, Stevens discusses how we can lead the nation in public policy and private investment to promote autonomous vehicle development, electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure, and intelligent transportation systems. You can also read the transcript of the conversation.

Listen to the podcast here.

CEO Spotlight: Adient’s Doug Del Grosso

Doug Del Grosso is the president and chief executive officer of Adient. MICHauto spoke with Del Grosso about his priorities as an automotive executive and the Adient’s workplace culture.

What is your number one priority as CEO?

Adient’s vision is “improving the experience of a world in motion.” As CEO, I want to help the team deliver on that vision for our customers, employees, and shareholders. We do this by following our guiding principles. These principles identify the areas that will drive Adient forward while focusing on what is most important: customers, quality, people, community, and financial discipline. Focusing on continuous improvement in these areas guides and informs our business strategy and our culture.

What is an important lesson you learned early in your career?

When I was just starting out in my career and in the automotive business, a successful leader in the industry once told me, “there is no such thing as a dead body; choose your enemies carefully.” What he meant is that relationships are important. Automotive people tend to stay in automotive – they may change companies or roles, but you never know where your paths may cross again. His advice stayed with me and made me aware of how important it is to treat everyone you deal with with respect.

How would you describe the culture in your organization?

I’m very proud of the culture we have at Adient. We are creating an entrepreneurial environment where people feel empowered and responsible for the performance of the company. We work hard to engender an ownership mindset that inspires the right behaviors and actions from everyone.  That means treating each decision and expenditure as if it were for your own business or household. Accountability and mutual respect are the keys to building this culture of empowerment.

Commercial fleets poised to bolster electric vehicle market

By Jayson Bussa

As the consumer vehicle market gradually transitions to electrified models, automotive experts say the commercial fleet segment has the potential to transform the sector more rapidly.

Corporations and municipalities are increasingly considering electrification as they begin to rethink the fuels for their fleets.  Whether fleet operators are motivated by the financial bottom line, anticipated emission mandates or public opinion, industry analysts suggest that mass adoption by commercial fleets is on the near horizon.

“When you look at commercial fleets and public fleets, there is no question that electrification — or some form of electrification, not necessarily full electric vehicle — is definitely where everyone is looking for a variety of reasons,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of statewide auto industry association MICHauto.

According to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles accounted for just 2.1 percent of the light vehicle market in 2019. However, experts say commercial fleet adoption could accelerate the slow-moving consumer market.

A push to electrify

According to Stevens, the widespread adoption of electric or hybrid commercial fleet vehicles can be far less cumbersome compared to consumer vehicles.

For example, many fleet vehicles travel along fixed or predictable routes and return to a specific depot or location to charge. This means a fleet manager doesn’t have to rely on the availability of consumer charging stations. 

Fleet vehicles also are used frequently, which helps a business or municipality recoup upfront costs relatively quickly through savings on fuel, plus electric vehicles cost less to maintain compared to internal combustion models. This makes shuttle buses, delivery vans, box trucks and similar light-duty vehicles good candidates for electrification, experts say.

In addition to the fuel saving benefits of on-vehicle technology, hybrid and electric vehicles are outfitted with advanced telematics, which can provide valuable information for fleet managers.

Novi-based The Shyft Group Inc., a manufacturer formerly known as Spartan Motors that maintains a large presence in Charlotte, saw opportunity in the electric vehicle space, specifically for Class 3 light-duty vehicles such as mini-buses, RVs, walk-in vans and city delivery vehicles.

The specialty vehicle manufacturer announced earlier this month that it will bring to market an all-electric, purpose-built Class 3 chassis platform designed to serve a wide array of medium-duty truck markets, from last-mile parcel delivery fleets to work trucks, passenger buses and recreational vehicles.

Shyft Group President and CEO Daryl Adams told MiBiz that two of the company’s larger clients lobbied it to fill a void of quality products in the Class 3 space. The Shyft Group’s executive team saw opportunity.

The Shyft Group is currently searching for a location to produce the chassis and is poised for large-scale production in late 2023, Adams said.

As a company that has built more than 2,500 alternative propulsion vehicles in its history, Shyft executives foresee an era when electrified Class 3 vehicles will be crucial for operations, Adams said.

“We’re seeing it in Europe, where a lot of the cities are saying you must be green to deliver inside the city limits,” Adams said. “These would be perfect to do some of the delivery in a city that is mandating something like that.”

The Shyft Group is a leader in the North American market in purpose-built delivery vehicle solutions, a $3.2 billion industry dominated by parcel delivery. This segment of The Shyft Group generated $491 million in sales for the company in 2020.

A third-party study commissioned by The Shyft Group showed that the country’s fleet of walk-in and cargo vans totaled some 150,000 vehicles in 2015 and is expected to grow to 450,000 by 2025, partly fueled by a booming e-commerce industry that was accelerated two or three years by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“From a delivery standpoint, or anyone that leaves a location and comes back to that exact same location on a daily basis, I think electric vehicles will be for them as the adoption rate continues to increase over the years,” Adams said.

Boston-based XL Fleet Corp. is another company looking to capitalize on the growing demand for electrified fleet vehicles. XL Fleet recently opened a 24,655-square-foot facility in Wixom — its fourth facility nationwide — for product research and development programs. The site has technology capabilities for prototyping, controls development and electrical and systems engineering.

XL Fleet has developed kits to retrofit existing vehicles with plug-in hybrid technology. This allows fleet managers to reap similar benefits without going fully electric.

“The industry wants to push toward an all-electric landscape, but there are a number of significant challenges that still exist today and they existed 10 years ago when we founded the company,” said Eric Foellmer, director of marketing for XL Fleet.

Foellmer pointed to the lack of widespread infrastructure, the scarcity of electric vehicles and the fact that fully electric vehicles may never be ideal for certain fleet applications.

However, when clean energy mandates come from states, municipalities or within a company itself, many clients are leaning on XL Fleet’s hybrid solution as more of a necessity than a cost-saving luxury, Foellmer said.

“We hear from customers much more frequently now that say, ‘I have a sustainable mandate. What do you have that can help me meet that right away?’” compared to asking about system costs and a return on investment, he said. “It’s a much different conversation now than it used to be.”

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