Mid-Market Company of the Week:WeatherTech
Long before the notion became cool again lately, WeatherTech was all about making its products only in the United States.
So when MacNeil Automotive Products Ltd. touted its digitally proportioned, premium-priced WeatherTech vehicle floor liners in a national advertisement during the Super Bowl – and crowed that they are “made in America” – it was the culmination of a company mission that has become a passion for Founder and CEO David MacNeil.
“The Super Bowl was a great platform for branding the WeatherTech name and getting it out to all of America,” MacNeil told Chief Executive. “It also helped us get across a message that is near and dear to me, about U.S. manufacturing, our industrial infrastructure, factories in America, using American raw materials and hiring American workers.”
MacNeil’s idea a quarter-century ago was to create aftermarket floor mats that would fit precisely inside vehicles, dependably keeping dragged-in moisture and debris from soiling the carpet. He initially imported them from the United Kingdom but, as WeatherTech’s retail success grew, MacNeil pivoted to U.S. manufacture.
And now everything from most of the plant’s tooling, to its vast supply of sheet plastic, comes to the company’s operations in suburban Chicago from only in America.
“If you combine American technology with great American workers, you can be competitive with anyone, anytime around the world,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter if I can manufacture it more cheaply overseas. In my heart it’s the right thing to do.”
Handling everything in Illinois, MacNeil explained, also “means we’re quick-to-market. We don’t have to wait for a ship to come from thousands of miles away – we can manufacture right here, right now.”
MacNeil Automotive now also supplies rooftop cargo carriers, side-window deflectors, mud flaps and other car accessories. But as he has expanded his operations around suburban Chicago, MacNeil said proudly, he hasn’t asked for “any support whatsoever from local or national government in building our factories.”
WeatherTech also markets heavily in America, running ads on national TV, radio, billboards and in more than 100 print publications before MacNeil plunked down about $4 million to see his company and message featured on the world’s grandest marketing platform.
Twenty-five years of double-digit-percentage sales increases have proven MacNeil’s approach – and given WeatherTech an unparalleled position in the floormat aftermarket. The company also has struck OEM deals with German luxury brands, and MacNeil is looking for more business with automakers.
MacNeil Automotive Products Ltd. / CEO: David MacNeil
Size: Revenues of several hundred million dollars; about 1,000 employees
Location: Bolingbrook, Ill.
Goal: MacNeil is messianic about American manufacturing. “I’ve always had great faith in American workers,” he told Crain’s Chicago Business. “I just felt we could make better products in America.”
Fact: The founder also is passionate about avoiding outsourcing: WeatherTech, for instance, has its own fleet of trucks clear snow out of company parking lots rather than contract out the service.
Unique: MacNeil is a leading collector of old air-cooled Porsches, with dozens in his stable.