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Mar 6, 2020

'Not that bad': Martinrea founder taking COVID-19 impact in stride

'50 bps saves us $3-$4 million': Martinrea Chair on BoC cut and COVID-19


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One of Canada’s top auto parts executives said his company is not feeling the sting of COVID-19 in markets outside of the virus’s epicentre.

“Very little impact in terms of production outside of China,” said Rob Wildeboer, executive chairman and co-founder for Martinrea International Inc., in an interview with BNN Bloomberg Friday.

“But we know it’s something we have to keep our eyes on very closely.”

He added that travel restrictions in China are “front-burner stuff” that the company has been monitoring, but said that Martinrea’s plants there are still producing parts, despite a slowdown last quarter.

The greater concern, he said, was the pace of demand for cars in one of the world’s largest markets.

“At the end of the day, I think the biggest impact - in [the] sense of production – is people aren’t buying vehicles in China. So we’ll have to see how that works through the system.”

Nonetheless, Wildeboer believes Martinrea is prepared for a worst-case scenario.

“2008-2009: That was the biggest financial crisis we’ve seen, at least in my lifetime… and we adjusted fairly quickly. We went from 7,200 employees to 4,800 employees in a month,” Wildeboer said. “I don’t think we’re at that stage by any stretch, but you do have to flex in those types of situations and we monitor that very closely.”

However, Wildeboer – who noted that his company began its auto parts business one day before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States - doesn’t see the “worst-case scenario” as being all that bad.

“We see lots of numbers. We have to be political scientists and economists, because we’re all over the world in what we do,” he said.

“In the context of looking at prognostications, some of the worst-case scenarios are that we’ll have no economic growth in the world this year; which I guess is bad, but it’s not that bad.”