TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Don Runkle retired as vice chairman of Delphi Corp. June 30, but he already is moving ahead in a new career.
During a hallway interview at the Management Briefing Seminars here, Runkle says he is working with private equity (leveraged buyout) groups seeking acquisitions in a variety of industries including automotive, medical and energy, "where they may need operating people.
“We've put in some bids, but the numbers have to add up from a production and technical standpoint," he says.
Runkle turned 60 in June and says that when he was passed over to succeed J.T. Battenberg III, who was retiring as chairman, he elected to take early retirement.
Delphi chose Robert (Steve) Miller, a former Chrysler Corp. executive and turnaround expert, to fill Battenberg's spot.
Runkle joined General Motors Corp. 37 years ago and rose quickly in its car and truck engineering ranks. He moved over to GM's automotive components group in 1993 and stayed on in 1999 when the group was spun off as Delphi.
Despite its current problems, Runkle thinks Delphi can survive without resorting to bankruptcy and eventually will return to profitability.
"Delphi has terrific technology, and our strategy to go after non-GM business has worked out great,” he says. “When Delphi was formed, 80% of our business was with GM. Now it's around 49%."
Runkle says Delphi's central issue is noncompetitive labor costs in North America for employees it inherited from GM, especially health-care and pension costs.
"GM, the (United Auto Workers union) and Delphi will have to get together and find a solution, and I think they will," he says.