#1 Who is Thom Miles? What have you done, your accomplishments and your current position? I am currently the Manager of Sales and Marketing for the North American aftermarket. I started in the turbocharger industry back in 1981, working for a small aftermarket company as the parts and purchasing manager. This was at a time when the Ford, GM and Chrysler were beginning the first wave of production passenger car turbocharging in North America. I have been with BorgWarner Turbo Systems for 13 years starting as a Regional Sales Manager, Marketing Manager, and then into my current position. I would say the accomplishment that I am most proud of as it relates to Sport Compact Racing is establishing our AirWerks performance turbo program back in 2002. With the help of some really smart and passionate people, the AirWerks product line has blossomed into what it is today.
#2 – You have a long history in the aftermarket turbocharger segment. From its infancy until now what are the 3 best advancements you have seen come to market when it comes to performance turbochargers? The evolution of rotor group aerodynamics would be at the top of my list. This translates into turbos that are smaller, more efficient, and capable of higher pressure ratios than their predecessors. Turbo durability has to be considered. When you consider the tight tolerances, the incredible the rotor speeds, (in some cases 1,300 revolutions per second), and extreme temperatures, the modern turbo is truly a mechanical marvel. Metallurgical and manufacturing processes are more far more advanced. This has delivered us compressor wheels made from titanium and those made from aluminum forgings. Low inertia turbine wheels made of Gamma Titanium Aluminide or Gamma-Ti have been commercialized enabling us to integrate them in to turbos, sold at an affordable price point.
#3 – BorgWarner has been very involved in Sport Compact Drag Racing for years. Recently, within the last 4-5 years it seems BorgWarner has taken on a huge role as a class sponsor targeting Grassroots level racing. What is it about Grassroots level racing that attracts you? Personally, I am amazed at the competitive spirit of the Grassroots racers who are driven by passion and a will to win. Their programs are usually pretty meager and largely funded out of their own pockets. If they are lucky, they secure a little product help from various manufacturing companies. Whatever the case, they seem to find ways to go faster and faster. That’s impressive! From a corporate standpoint, there are still opportunities for companies to sell into the Grassroots community if they promote and make good product. It is easy to see that these racers are all connected at some level and have many friends. The racers and those friends buy turbos.
#4 – Events such as this weekend’s Fall Nationals at Englishtown Raceway Park showcase some of the best Sport Compact Drag Racers in the country. Do you feel the level the racing is at currently is sufficient to garner more corporate support? Is the Sport Compact Drag Racing segment an important segment for BorgWarner to continue to target? If what you mean by “corporate support” are large companies with 500 or more employees, I personally do not see evidence that these companies are supporting the segment as they were in the 2000 to 2006 timeframe. I do not know the specific reasons why. I do know there are more choices with reference to the different racing venues looking for corporate sponsorships. Perhaps some of these organizations have chosen other motorsports opportunities in Drifting or Time-Attack. For us, the economics have to make sense. If we invest more, we want to see a return on that investment. This means that our distribution partners must be able to grow our product sales into the Sport Compact market. This also means there has to be alignment between our aftermarket objectives and the unique needs of that market.
#5 -- What specifically do you look for when you look to become involved with racers and events? What is a more important avenue for BorgWarner to explore…individual racer type partnerships or Series / Class type partnerships? We look at both the event and the racer. Both offer unique opportunities and benefits depending on the level of investment desired. The benefits are to include feedback to our product development folks and obviously sales growth. Specifically, I look to see if we are a good fit for the event or the racer. Conversely, are the events or racers a good fit for our product roster? Will the race team or event communicate our brand identity in a way that is consistent with our corporate vision, mission and beliefs? Motorsports participation continues to be very important to BorgWarner as evidenced by being named the exclusive turbo supplier to the IZOD Indy Car series.
#6 – We are in the mist of the some of the best turbo wars the market has seen. Every manufacturer continues to come out with different technology to try and differentiate themselves from the rest. What does BorgWarner bring to the table to differentiate yourselves? We are very committed to offering leading technological engine boosting solutions. This mindset helped to create the EFR Series that launched in late 2010. This new line of turbos contains a feature set that is unrivaled by any other turbo on the market, aftermarket or O.E. The Gamma-Ti turbine wheel is the marquee attribute that propels EFR to the technological edge. A turbo packed with cutting-edge elements while retaining affordability helps to set it apart from other turbos on the market. Admittedly, we have stumbled on the launch and consistent production of this product. However, the scope of this project is very important to BorgWarner and we are working hard to supply what the market demands.
#7 – The horsepower levels we are seeing continue to rise with advancing turbocharger technology. Does BorgWarner have anything new up its sleeve coming to market that will continue this trend? Where does it stop? Or does it? We’ll have to wait and see. You can never finish in developing new products that help improve vehicle performance.
#8 – Small displacement turbocharged engines are being released from many manufacturers currently. Does this new genre direct from the manufacturer give BorgWarner a new market for growth? Are these new factory turbocharged vehicles important for future BorgWarner projects and potential new customers? Yes and definitely, yes. Being on the 3.5L EcoBoost platform will have a significant impact on our growth. We think Ford’s future commitment to the turbocharged vehicle is influencing the other car manufacturers to quickly follow their lead. They realize that turbocharging is the most economical way to downsize the engine, increase fuel economy without losing engine performance. The 2017 projection for factory turbocharged passenger cars in North America is somewhere around 4 million. Sales were slightly over 1 million in 2011. From a performance aftermarket standpoint, this will stimulate demand for turbo upgrades.
#9 – You see a lot of racing in the Sport Compact market. Between Drag Racing, Time Attack, Road Racing, Drifting and the average Joe with his street car is there a specific demographic that BorgWarner has seen the most growth from in the last 3-4 years? With the launch if Series EFR in 2010, we were privileged to boost some pretty noteworthy Time Attack vehicles, most notably the Sierra Sierra EVO and the winner of the 2012 World Time Attack, the NEMO racing EVO 9. This helped give the EFR program credibility within that fan base and spurred new sales demand from that crowd.
#10 – Aside from the Sport Compact market being the best market ( I am slightly biased). When it comes to great markets for BorgWarner to be a part of what is the next best thing? It seems there has been a huge increase recently in the Diesel Performance market in particular. Actually, our sales success in the diesel performance market preceded our growth in the Sport Compact market. Revenue from our key diesel performance distributors really helped justify our promotional investments while we gained traction in the Sport Compact market. We are fortunate to be partnered with four or five performance diesel distributors who do a great job for us. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________ Thanks very much to Thom for taking the time to answer these questions. Thom and BorgWarner continue to show their dedication to the Sport Compact industry. http://www.turbodriven.com/