Is Detroit a forbidden city for Korean companies?
“Definitely Not” replies Won Ghee Yang, the President of Hyundai Mobis Detroit that opened an assembly plant in west side of Detroit in June of 2010. Hyundai Mobis settled at ArvinMeritor’s building to supply front and rear suspension modules for the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Since then, the plant has employed 308 local workers to maintain two shifts that accomplished $23 million in sale since its opening. Their goal is $7 billion to cover 250,000 vehicles.
Yang added “Detroit has been good for our business. No break-ins. No crimes. We still have buildings with broken windows and partially collapsed walls around our area, but we walk down the street to eat lunch with no hesitation”. “Frankly speaking, there were some concerns about the safety in Detroit before we made a decision to come to the city, but it was the right decision to open a business in Detroit. Detroit was a welcoming city for our company” he said.
Another concern to open a plant in Detroit was considered to be UAW. Many foreign companies, even American companies, don’t even think about coming to Michigan with lack of definite view about UAW. But it was a different story for Hyundai Mobis Detroit.
“People in Detroit are diligent and hard working. Our employees are doing a great job day-in and day-out. When we have an issue, we are open to solve the problems through communication”, Mr. Yang expressed his satisfaction with his workers who are the members of UAW Local 600.
Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers was at the opening ceremony a year ago and said “When you do it in an urban environment, we really appreciate that social commitment” .
President Yang is a big advocator of urban development. His company sponsors several youth programs around the town. He is also open for student co-op program to train Detroit youngsters in the plant. He calls in local universities for help when he has technical difficulties. Kattering University in Flint and University of Toledo were the strategic partners for its engineering improvement. President Yang is reaching out to Wayne State University, which is in 20 minutes in the same city, for the same purpose.
President Yang says, “Michigan is a good state to start business. It has engineering mind set, quality control capability, and most importantly face-to-face contact with major buyers”.
Traffic jams on I-75 around the city is a big hassle for the company, especially when it has to deliver the assembled products on time to Chrysler Group L.L.C.’s Jefferson North assembly plant. Tax incentive on part-carrying containers is on his wish list because he has to spend $7 million to equip the containers on yearly basis. “Labor pool becomes shallow”, he hopes the city or state government can invest more on training people to be ready for work. “The fees charged by head hunting companies seemed to be too high”. He also wish to see more R&D pool around the city.
“When ArvinMeritor Inc. decided to leave the light-vehicle business, its employees were about to lose the job”, says plant manager Daniel Downey. “We are glad that we can still work with Hyundai Mobis. Mobis provided opportunities to all former Arvin Meritor employees first. Employment benefit is improved. Better Health care with less deductible”, he added. The hourly employees of Mobis can pay a fixed amount towards their employee benefit, whereas they previously had to pay a percent based amount which rise as benefit costs rise.
Dan enjoys working for Hyundai Mobis. He likes ‘Detailed Management style’ by President Yang. Dan is not the only one enjoy working for Hyundai Mobis Detroit. There are some who decided to stay with Mobis although they have better offers from other companies. Pleasant working environment with unambiguous direction make workers unpuzzled and more comfortable at work.
President Yang is well known in the company for his straightforward management skills; clear direction setting and continuous support. President Yang believes solutions to problems can be achieved either inside or outside of the company. “Don’t give up when you do not have the solution. Then try to find who has the solution. You can always buy the solution from outside source”. He also encourages his workers to bring any problems to himself. Through open dialogue, they try to find the right direction and solutions together. President Yang gives assignments and checks if the assignments are accomplished. If not, he talks over until they find the reason together on daily basis.
Hyundai Mobis Detroit is running in a very unique business style. Hyundai Mobis Detroit sounds like a Korean company, but it has only four Koreans from Korea and rest is recruited from Metro Detroit area. It uses 100% of American parts to assemble for American auto companies.
When there are so many companies that say “It is time to leave Detroit”, Hyundai Mobis says totally opposite, “It’s time to stay in and grow together with”.
Hyundai Mobis Detroit
6401 W. Fort St. Detroit, MI 48209
1-248 – 521 – 7900