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JCI President Wandell will steer Harley-Davidson


Chrissie Thompson

Automotive News

April 7, 2009 - 9:15 am ET

UPDATED: 4/7/09 4:30 p.m. ET


Keith Wandell, who in December told Congress that the supply chain would "implode" if a Detroit automaker went bankrupt, is resigning as president of supplier Johnson Controls Inc. to head iconic motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson Inc.


Wandell, who is also COO of Johnson Controls, will take over on May 1 from Harley CEO Jim Ziemer, who already announced retirement plans.


Johnson Controls will not name a replacement president and COO, spokeswoman Anna Timms said. She declined to comment on whether the company was creating a new position or phasing out the COO's duties.


Wandell, 59, became Johnson Controls' president and COO in 2006. In December, he represented auto suppliers in a U.S. Senate Banking Committee hearing when domestic automakers originally requested a $34 billion bailout. He said a Detroit automaker's bankruptcy would cause a cascade of failures among suppliers, particularly smaller companies owned by women and minorities.


Wandell has worked for Johnson Controls since 1988, when he managed a battery plant. His other assignments at the company have included leading Johnson Controls' power division for more than five years and its automotive division for about three. The power division includes automotive batteries.


In December, Harley said Ziemer, the company's 58-year-old CEO, would retire sometime in 2009 after four years at the helm.


Both companies are in Milwaukee.


Harley-Davidson, along with the automakers that Johnson Controls serves, has taken a hit from weaker consumer spending in the United States, frozen credit markets and a worldwide economic slowdown.


Johnson Controls makes seating, batteries and interior parts and ranks No. 7 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global original-equipment parts suppliers, with sales to automakers of $18.50 billion in fiscal 2007.


At the end of 2008, Johnson Controls announced a $495 million restructuring program with cost reduction initiatives. Last month the supplier said the restructuring is two-thirds complete and ahead of schedule. Johnson Controls predicted it would make a profit in the quarter that started this month.


The company has said it expects to complete this latest round of restructuring in 2010.


Reuters contributed to this report

Edited by Blackdog
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