Navigating International Business in 2022 – Rob Wildeboer

February 23, 2022

“Navigating International Business in 2022” with Mr. Rob Wildeboer, Executive Chairman and co-founder of Martinrea International Inc.

Challenges in the automotive sector, one of the most innovative and technologically advanced industries in the world, provide the background to discuss issues of international trade, supply chain dynamics and public policy adjustments, including energy and environmentally related policy.

Rob Wildeboer is interviewed by Jonathan Wellum of Rocklinc, followed by a question and answer session, providing insight on how to persevere and succeed in this challenging environment.


0:00 Introductory comments and Christian Embassy of Canada overview

2:37 Introduction to interviewer Jonathan Wellum

2:50 Introduction to Rob Wildeboer, Executive Chairman and co-founder of Martinrea International Inc.

5:28 Rob Wildeboer’s introductory comments on Martinrea

Question and Answer

18:20 Do you expect that fears about the supply chain security and resilience will lead to more domestic investment in Canada? Would that be the same in other countries that they would be more careful about the supply chain and how far afield it goes?

20:24 How are increasing geopolitical tensions impacting the allocation of capital and what countries you’re prepared to invest in? Are the big automakers shifting some of their interests also with some of the geopolitical tension in the Far East?

21:52 How would you assess the role of China in the future of the automotive industry? What are their strengths and weaknesses and how do we position given some of their aggressiveness?

23:19 What are Canada’s greatest strengths in the auto and manufacturing sectors and what are the biggest risks looking ahead for us as a country?

25:22 What are some of the major challenges for automotive producers in Europe and how do you see that particular market shaking out?

27:06 You mentioned one of the challenges that’s hitting the whole world is this increased inflation and the pressure to hold down costs coming from the automakers. How are you managing the inflation costs and building that into your cost structure? Do you see this as transitory, like some in the federal reserve have mentioned, or do you see this as a little bit more systemic and longer lasting from your standpoint?

29:20 Have you found that robotics and automation at Martinrea are replacing labour jobs and what do you think the impact of that is going to be on the labour market? Does labour just get re-allocated to other positions, creating other opportunities?

32:06 How can companies in the global economy promote justice in the world? How can the corporate sector work with governments to further justice in the world?

35:03 What’s the potential for Canada to become a player in the Electric Vehicle Industry, on the assembly and the parts side? What are you seeing on that side for Canada?

38:11 How are you preparing for new entrants into the auto manufacturing sector? You hear about Rivian, Tesla, Apple…How do you prepare for that? How do you keep those relationships and keep the conversations going so that you don’t miss out on that?

41:10 The auto sales reached about $75 million units in 2019 and then dropped down to about $64 million in 2020. When do you predict that we will surpass 2019 numbers in terms of auto production globally?

42:57 How does your faith impact day-to-day business decisions? How has your faith led you to make an unpopular operational decision?

47:48 How do your faith and your principles at Martinrea translate into a real and substantive look at the whole issue of Environmental Social Governance (ESG)?

50:38 Do you have any closing comments to summarize the discussion and other thoughts that you think would be valuable to the ambassadors and business folks on the call?

51:45 Thanks to Rob Wildeboer

52:43 Closing comments – Jonathan Wellum

55:22 Closing comments and thanks – Darlene McLean

Extended Question and Answer

56:41 Due to the global car chip shortage, manufacturers are having problems producing cars. Could you speak a little more to what you’re seeing in the chip area and the shortages? How long will that continue? What impact will this have on the auto industry?

59:24 The use of hydrogen as an energy source and the impact on the auto industry. It’s being used in large transportation vehicles like buses and trains. What do you see in that space?

1:02:02 In the political environment that we’re in, political parties and some of the bureaucrats don’t seem to be as interested in unifying and a bit more dividing. How do you work that political conversation? How does business help impact governments so that they’re not as divisive as we’ve seen more recently and work for unity and for the betterment of the economy and for the consumer?

1:06:34 Closing comments

Rob Wildeboer photo 2022

Rob Wildeboer

Rob Wildeboer is the Executive Chairman and co-founder of Martinrea International Inc., a diversified and global automotive supplier engaged in the design, development and manufacturing of highly engineered, value-added Lightweight Structures and Propulsion Systems. Martinrea currently employs approximately 16,000 talented and motivated people in 57 operating divisions in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Slovakia, Spain, China, South Africa and Japan. He brings a deep and intricate knowledge of the company’s culture, key personnel, strategy, history and development, and relationships with key constituencies such as capital providers and governments, to the company. He has also been intimately involved in negotiating the purchase and financing of every acquisition in the company’s history, as the company has been one of the fastest growing automotive parts companies in the industry. He has been involved in the automotive industry for many years in many roles, whether as a representative of the company in negotiations or as an advisor to public policy makers and others. He is focused on the company’s culture, vision, mission and principles, with a commitment to the company’s most important asset, its people.  

Previously, Mr. Wildeboer was a partner of Wildeboer Dellelce LLP, a law firm that practices corporate, securities, lending, tax and real estate law that he co-founded in 1993. Mr. Wildeboer has been an entrepreneurial investor, director or officer of a number of private and public companies and currently sits as Vice-Chair of NanoXplore Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of high-volume graphene powder for use in industrial markets. The company provides standard and custom graphene-enhanced plastic and composite products to various customers in transportation, packaging, electronics and other industrial sectors. Martinrea is the largest shareholder of NanoXplore and Mr. Wildeboer is Martinrea’s representative on the board.

Mr. Wildeboer is co-chair of the Canadian Automotive Partnership Counsel (CAPC) and was co-chair of the CAPC Task Force on COVID-19; a present and past advisor to the Governments of Canada and Ontario on a variety of economic, trade, investment, industry, innovation, manufacturing and automotive mandates; past Chair of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and past Chair of Cardus, both leading Canadian think tanks; and a director or advisor of numerous charitable organizations.  

Mr. Wildeboer holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Guelph, a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, an MBA from York University, and an LLM from Harvard University. In 2012, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his contributions to Canada. In 2018, he received the Jay Hennick Award from Osgoode Hall Law School and the Schulich School of Business for career achievement.