Leadership Spotlight: Q & A with Larry Pavey

Larry Pavey, who has spent his entire career in the automotive aftermarket, is the chief executive officer of Federated Auto Parts and CEO of The Automotive Parts Services Group, a joint venture between Pronto and Federated. Federated is a marketing group representing 60 warehouse distributor members serving more than 3,000 stores throughout the United States.

Pavey entered the business on the distribution side. He moved to the production arena, first with Walker Manufacturing, then on to Echlin’s newly formed BWD division, where he eventually served as vice president of marketing for the Borg Warner, Niehoff, and Whitaker brands.

After Echlin acquired Raybestos Brakes in 1985, Pavey moved into the brake business and held a variety of positions, culminating in 1990 by being named president of the Echlin’s Brake Parts Inc. With Pavey at the helm, Echlin grew to be the largest brake supplier in the U.S. aftermarket.

In 1997 Pavey was named president of Echlin’s North American Operations with responsibility for all aftermarket businesses. Following Echlin’s purchase in 1998 by Dana Corporation Pavey became the president of Dana’s Under Vehicle Group where he served for the next six years with responsibility for the company’s $1.5 billion global under-vehicle businesses.

After retiring from Dana Corporation he moved back to the distribution side of the businesses joining a former client, Federated Auto Parts.

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What is your current role and area of responsibility?

I serve as CEO at Federated Auto Parts, a distribution group with 60 members operating 155 distribution centers and over 1200 company store locations in North and Central America

How would you describe your work/leadership style and why has it worked so well for you?

My style is one of empowerment and involvement with a focus on continued improvement. In the late 80s and 90s we practiced Kiazen which utilized teams of people who did the work to evaluate and improve the process. I am a firm believer that the people doing the work are the experts and that listening, involving, and empowering them in the process creates success. Helping people improve their skills and giving them flexibility to make decisions and sometimes fail fosters creativity and accountability along with constant improvement.

What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?

Staying out of the way! Today’s world is so complex and fast with rapid change that is difficult for everyone to navigate, so it really requires trust in those that know their work area best. Balancing the needs of different constituents and understanding the priorities and conflicts that occur every day is a major challenge. However, working with great people with shared goals and objectives is a huge advantage.

How has the global Covid-19 pandemic impacted your operation? What will the brake world look like considering the pandemic in the near term?

While parts distribution was deemed essential to support first responders, health professionals, and other front-line participants in most states, we still saw major volume reductions in many markets. This created a need for budget adjustments and other measures that many businesses faced. The brake world will likely be impacted in the short term as drive miles are reduced substantially and while there will be some pent up demand the recovery will be in line with employment increases.

What do you look for when evaluating top talent?

I had a supervisor who suggested that the top characteristics for success were Dedication, Responsible, Integrity, Vision, and Enthusiasm. These are still pretty good measures for finding people who will be successful in any assignment.

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What is the best career advice you have been given?

It is probably more complicated than you realize! Decisions are easier to make with more information available.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I find inspiration in all the stories of those who overcome all odds to be successful. A unique dedication to work hard to achieve a goal whether in business, sports, or just life. There are so many great stories that motivate and inspire of individuals who just refuse to accept failure or defeat.

Related post:
Larry Pavey joins Global Brake Safety Council

How do you see the industry evolving over the next five to 10 years and do you have any bold predictions for us?

Our industry, absent outside influences, is very stable and consistent. We can overcome most obstacles and handle any changes and have demonstrated the ability to adapt for over 100 years and supported the most mobile society in the world, safely and economically. However, I would expect legislative, social, and environmental impacts to be outside influences that are not as easily overcome in the next five-10 years.

What is the major challenge(s) facing your organization now, in the near term and the long term?

Technology and scale are the biggest threats both near and long term. The changes in vehicle technology and communication technology challenge us to manage efficiently while large competitors have the scale to create advantages. We have to be very efficient and continue to find ways to create unique value.

What are the best opportunities for the company?

We are a group of companies that are all a little different but work together to share best practices and cost. We have to leverage what makes each company unique while doing it more efficiently. Collaboration is a key to our mutual success and finding the right partners is extremely important.

The overall automotive world is being overwhelmed by the concept of autonomous/automated driving for both safety and efficiency reasons. How soon do you believe we will see truly autonomous vehicles on the road?

Absent outside influences… again without subsidies, coercion, legislative pressure it will be a slow transition. It will be cost effective in certain applications where human or labor cost can be eliminated, taxis, Ubers, delivery vehicles, etc. and as toys for the wealthy, which we will likely see in the next five years. However, for the rest of the population it will probably be much longer for major implementation.

Tell us something that most people might not know about you or your organization.

I spent many years in the brake business and was fortunate to have worked with many Federated members over the past 35 years. In many cases I worked with fathers or grandfathers of those in charge today. Those relationships are more like family than business and are what makes this industry special.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.