FORGED UNDER PRESSURE
From the Storeroom to the Boardroom, Exedy’s Mark Davis has ticked plenty of boxes across his successful career in the automotive aftermarket
Facing challenges head-on is nothing new for Exedy Australia Senior Product Manager, Mark Davis. After finishing school, a surfing safari, and building golf courses, Mark started his career in the automotive aftermarket.
“When I finished high school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I took some time off, hit the surf and did a bit of labouring building golf courses while I decided in which direction I’d like to take my career,” Mark said.
“While I really enjoyed my time building golf courses, after a few years working outdoors in scorching 40+ degree temperatures in summer and the freezing cold of Victorian winters I decided it was time for a change.
“So, I enrolled to study civil engineering and while I was studying, I was doing a bit of part-time work with Daikin Clutch to pay the bills.”
This signalled the beginning of Mark’s successful career in the automotive aftermarket industry.
“I started my career in the automotive industry working in the Daikin warehouse in 1994,” Mark said.
“I was hooked, I really enjoyed the work, and I felt an affinity with the characters who work in the automotive industry.
“It sounds a bit sappy, but they’re my kind of people. We all shared a similar outlook and interests, so when I was presented with the opportunity to join the team full time, I jumped at it and have never looked back.”
Exedy has a long history in Australia that extends all the way back to 1986, when four knock-about blokes banded together to start Clutch Co Imports before in later years a fifth founding member came on board in Sydney.
For the next decade these founding members toiled, and in 1995 Daikin Clutch Japan came to Australia and looking for a local partner, they joined forces and Daikin Clutch Australia was born.
“In 2020 we are celebrating our 25th year as Exedy Australia, and Exedy Japan is celebrating their 70th year in business this year as well,” Mark said.
Mark spent a couple of years working in the warehouse in Melbourne, filling customer orders, dispatch, inwards goods and learning the grassroots of warehousing. Mark’s can-do attitude quickly grabbed the attention of the management team, and he was offered the internal customer service role.
“I grabbed that opportunity with both hands,” Mark said.
“I’m one of those people that has a hunger to learn new things, and it was a big leap from the warehouse into customer service.”
Mark explained that in those early days, the customer service role was very hands-on. There were no online catalogues and the team would take several thousand telephone calls a month. For example, people would ring up and just say something like ‘I’ve got a laser, Mazda 323, I need a clutch for it, what options do you have?’
“Back in the early days, you needed to be on your game as a parts interrupter,” Mark said.
“I learnt a lot about our product range and applications during my time in the customer service department that would serve me well as my career developed.”
Mark then moved into a role as an external sales representative.
“I enjoyed my stint in the sales team,” Mark said.
“In addition to getting out of the office and travelling all over Australia, it also provided me with the opportunity to hone my customer liaison and relationship building skills, but my next step was a big one!”
To strengthen ties between Exedy Australia and their parent company, Mark was invited to join the global employee training program, so he packed his bags and headed to Japan in the early 2000s.
Landing in Osaka, Japan’s second-largest city, Mark jumped into the deep end, taking on a role in the aftermarket sales department.
Armed with only an English to Japanese and a Japanese to English dictionary, it was sink or swim. It was undoubtedly a significant change for a kid who had grown up in the small town of Upper Beaconsfield, located about 40 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD.
“On a personal level, it was very satisfying to have been selected to join Exedy’s global employee training program,” Mark explained.
“It was a massive challenge as not many people spoke English, and when I started, my Japanese only extended as far as Kon’nichiwa, but that wasn’t going to stop me.
“I’d go off to the production planning department or the warehouse or R&D department and talk to these guys who didn’t speak English about customer requests. I’d listen to them, take a couple of notes, I’d look it up in the dictionary, I’d get the gist of what they were was saying, and then go back to the other dictionary and respond.”
Luckily for Mark, he is a quick learner, and it wasn’t long before he became fluent in Japanese to the point where his grasp of the language was so strong, he ended up answering calls in the sales department.
“I really enjoyed my stint in Japan,” Mark said.
“It was an amazing experience, and apart from enjoying the work, I had an opportunity to visit Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Mount Fuji, and immersed myself in the culture.”
At Mark’s own admission, he returned home from Japan in the early 2000’s quite a bit thinner, but with a wealth of experience that saw him land the position as Operations Manager while also becoming the liaison between Exedy Japan and Australia.
“I was the window person, the conduit for information between Australia and Japan, and in that time, I helped align both businesses,” explained Mark.
By the time the mid-2000s had rolled around, it quickly became apparent that Exedy’s product range was too narrow.
Until this point, the Australian car parc was dominated by Holden and Ford. But that was changing fast as Japanese, European and Korean vehicles were quickly becoming more popular with Australian motorists. As a result, Mark made his next move into the product team.
“We needed to inject some additional resources into the product team to help them with new product development, and this is where I found my experience in Japan, combined with the extensive product knowledge I’d gleaned early in my career, paying dividends,” Mark said.
In his current role as Senior Product Manager, Mark is responsible for quality assurance, new product development, production, marketing and purchasing.
“In the past, all you’d need was about ten clutch kits on the shelf – a Gemini, a Corolla, a couple of Falcon kits, a couple of Kingswood kits and maybe a Commodore kit, that was pretty much it,” Mark said.
“Today we have more than 4,500 skews covering everything from passenger, commercial and agricultural vehicles as well performance upgrades and heavy-duty kits for those 4WD enthusiasts who like to get off the beaten track.”
Exedy currently employs in excess of 50 people and has offices in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. Always on the lookout for new opportunities, Exedy recently launched a new venture, Driveline Auto Parts.
“Driveline Auto Parts distributes automatic transmission parts, for the automatic transmission re-building industry,” Mark explained.
“Driveline is a critical piece of the puzzle for us moving forward, given that we have to face the reality that the clutch market is declining.
“You would know when you go to buy a new car that sometimes you’re not offered a manual vehicle. And a lot of younger people don’t necessarily want to drive a manual car these days.
“So, we have to face the reality that the clutch market is in decline and look a bit further afield for new products that we can offer to our customer base.”
Exedy is also the Australian agent for the AISIN brand.
A subsidiary of the Toyota Motor Company AISIN has a vast range of products, mainly for Toyota applications. While the future looks bright for Exedy, it’s certainly not without its challenges.
“The decline in the overall market size for clutches is our biggest challenge,” Mark explained.
“There are some human resource challenges, as well. The pool of experienced people in our industry sector is getting smaller and smaller.”
To overcome these challenges, Exedy is investing heavily in research and development to expand its offering and open up new market segments.
“An example of that would be the AISIN product,” Mark said.
“In addition, we are putting a lot of time and money into the development of products for hybrid and electric vehicles. It’s a little early to say too much at the moment, but there is no doubt that’s where the future is headed.”
Family is very important to Mark, and with two young girls, there is never a dull moment at home.
“I recently completed a commerce degree with a major in business analytics,” Mark said.
“I couldn’t have done it without the support of my amazing wife and the patience of the girls.”
Exedy’s motto is to provide the best service in the automotive aftermarket, they are one of the largest original equipment manufacturers of clutch products in the world.
“Our strength is our people, we have great people who are all working hard to provide exceptional quality, service, promotion, and after-sale support, we pride ourselves on those elements within the business,” Mark said.
“Of course, the AAAA helps us deliver on these promises.
“It’s a terrific organisation – they support their members and our interests, advocating for the automotive aftermarket at federal, state, and local government levels.
“If you’re not already a member, I strongly suggest getting involved,” he added.
To find out more about Exedy, visit www.exedy.com.au