What Matters to
By Scott Jonlich | Publisher
Hinsdale resident and WeatherTech Founder and CEO David MacNeil is not shy about telling you what matters to him. What matters to the 53-year-old automotive accessory king is that he built his Southwest Suburban-based corporation on ingenuity, hard work and a belief that "you take care of the people who work with you and the people who buy from you"—his customers.
Although MacNeil has served millions of customers, his loyalty to the American consumer and worker resounded throughout our recent interview.
"I believe in exporting products—but not exporting jobs out of America," MacNeil said, as he gave me a tour of his massive manufacturing facility just off I-55 in Bolingbrook. He also has support locations in Downers Grove where Product Development, Tooling and Marketing functions take place along with a Sales and Warehousing facility in Parma, Italy.
"We need to preserve manufacturing," MacNeil said. "When you walk into a store, buy American first, then from a country with which we have balanced trade relations. I believe in building here in America and employing our labor force."
MacNeil sources the steel and aluminum for WeatherTech’s tooling from vendors such as Vista Metals in Fontana, Calif. The raw materials for WeatherTech’s mats are made in Ohio, Texas, Kansas and Tennessee. MacNeil sources domestically, because he understands that way of business is vital for the prosperity of the country.
"If my neighbor doesn’t have a job, sooner or later I won’t have a job either," he said.
WeatherTech is the largest consumer of plastic sheet product in the United States, having been exported around the world by its 30 distributors in more than 21 countries outside of the United States.
MacNeil’s market expansion led to his manufacturing facility in Bolingbrook, completed in 2007. The bold move was just one year before the nation’s great recession, and required unwavering commitment from him and his team. Large investments in machinery, tooling and production facilities were implemented, along with a work force that would be needed to produce a worldwide demand for a growing population.
MacNeil founded his company in Clarendon Hills, Illinois in 1989. He was in London, sitting inside a 1988 E-Class Mercedes-Benz, and he noticed that the floor mats fit precisely with deep counters in side the quality mat. A true Aha! moment happened.
He flew back to America and initially imported floor mats from England but soon transitioned into Manufacturing in America the best floor mats, floor liners and cargo liners under the proud statement "Made in America" as was his goal.
"I’m one of the most vertically-integrated companies you will ever find; it pays off every time I add something," he said of the manufacturing space, which uses modern American technology, raw materials and skilled American workers.
The company produces all of its floor-mat manufacturing in the United States with high-tech product development and engineering.
"We believe in exporting products, not jobs. I’m all for a balance of trade—I’ll buy ten from you if you’ll buy ten from me,’’ MacNeil said in his newly built customer showroom complete with a café-style coffee bar that serves espresso and cappuccino for his customers and staff.
"If the customer is not happy with your products, then nothing else you do matters." If they do like your products, then everything else will fall into place." That’s why we focus so hard on customer satisfaction.
Jobs at WeatherTech have been falling into place too. A 45-member in-house customer service department walks customers through question-and-answer ordering process from a 1-800 shopper line. Field representatives also call on national retail stores, warehouse distributors and auto dealers. WeatherTech has over 500 employees today, and is also producing crossover products such as TechFloor—the first modular floor tile system to offer two distinctly different materials molded into one tile.
MacNeil’s WeatherTech company involves domestic and international travel, and he is rated as an airline transport pilot. He has flown his own plane in 48 States and 28 countries. When the Hinsdale native is on the ground he has done some professional sports car racing in Grand-Am and the 12 hours of Sebring, but mostly with the SCCA. He also collects sports cars with an appreciation for old air-cooled Porsches. MacNeil participated in a number of notable rallies, including the Mille Miglia, California Mille and the Colorado Grand.
MacNeil’s son Cooper attends the University of Colorado in Boulder, and his daughter Devon, a nationally-recognized competitive equestrian rider, will be attending Stanford University this fall. Cooper races at a professional level, and Roderick has his pilot’s license.
Photos by: Marcello Rodarte