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Snyder creates Automotive Industry Office, names Nigel Francis as state's auto adviser

Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder today announced the creation of an Automotive Industry Office and named Nigel J. Francis, whose automotive and technology management career spans nearly 30 years, as the state’s automotive adviser. The appointment was effective Sept. 1.

“Michigan is the nation’s unparalleled leader in automotive design, engineering and manufacturing,” Snyder said. “We’re proud to have 61 of the top 100 auto suppliers to North America, 70 percent of the auto research and development spending and a greater concentration of workers in auto-related engineering occupations than any of the top vehicle-producing states. Nigel’s expertise and leadership will be instrumental in implementing a comprehensive strategic plan for driving Michigan’s automotive industry forward. We welcome Nigel to our team and thank him for his willingness to serve the people of Michigan in this important role as we continue to reinvent our state.”

The Automotive Industry Office and automotive adviser position are housed within the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to actively support and collaborate with Michigan’s business attraction specialists to define Michigan as the global center for automotive activity.

Francis comes to state government with 29 years of executive experience in the global automotive sector. He has worked with multinational senior management both at original equipment manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers. Francis has a global awareness of startups, small, medium and large corporations, turnarounds, and mergers and acquisitions.

His most recent position was with Tata Technologies in Novi and Troy, where he was responsible for advanced engineering and program management for selected new vehicles for the European and emerging markets. Previously, he served as the chief operating officer and chief technology officer for Trexa LLC where he developed technology and strategic customer relationships in automotive and defense. He also was executive vice president at Bright Automotive, where he led the development of hybrid electric and battery electric vehicles and services. He was vice president of vehicle engineering at MBtech North America, a subsidiary of Daimler, president and COO of RLE International’s North American operations in Madison Heights and president of Farmington Hills-based ESI Group.

“It is an honor and a privilege to serve Gov. Snyder and the state of Michigan in this role, especially now while Michigan is regaining global competitiveness in the automotive sector,” Francis said. “I am passionate about stimulating business and jobs in Michigan’s auto industry, and I look forward to working collaboratively with the automotive community and academia to ensure that our state increases its share of the global automotive business. While Michigan’s automotive industry is roaring back, we can’t take anything for granted. The industry is dynamic, highly competitive and advanced and we need to work hard together to continue being a leader.”

Michigan’s auto industry is getting stronger every day, with numbers in employment, production and sales surging:

  • U.S. vehicle production volume is projected to be 15.3 million in 2013, and Michigan’s share is estimated to be more than 21 percent of the total.
  • New vehicle spending in the U.S. is up 48 percent since 2009, nearly $500 billion.
  • Michigan automotive employment has increased 31 percent between 2009 and 2013.
  • From January to May of this year, Michigan-based auto companies have announced nearly $760 million in new investments and are expected to create approximately 6,000 jobs.
  • Total automotive sales up 15 percent over last July.
  • All three Detroit-based automakers posted double-digit increases in their July sales:
  • GM up 16 percent over July 2012
  • Ford up 11 percent over July 2012
  • Chrysler up 11 percent over July 2012 – it is the 40th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains.

“As we develop strategies to grow business in Michigan, we recognize that we need to have a way to reach senior level executives in one of our most important industries,” said MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney. “It was crucial to bring on someone like Nigel who has both entrepreneurial and large corporate experience together with global cultural and industry specific awareness. We feel fortunate to have someone who is so motivated and qualified to take on this leadership role in understanding the needs and challenges of the automotive industry.”