Products: Automobile Original Equipment Manufacturer
Amy Boylan continues to build on Steve Saleen's performance automobile brand using social media and lean manufacturing practices.
Amy Boylan's path to a leadership role at companies in the automotive industry is a road well traveled -- mostly by men. But after a stint as president and COO at Shelby American and COO at West Coast Customs, Boylan’s less focused on glass ceilings than she is on stewarding an enduring brand that’s broken the rules of American automotive OEMs by transforming iconic automotive platforms into custom, high-performance machines.
"Steve Saleen has built a legacy and a brand that has lasted more than 34 years," says Boylan, president and COO at Saleen Automotive since June 2017. "That's what attracted me to the company. He’s weathered both good and bad times, but the automobiles he’s created remain collectible and beautiful, making the brand timeless."
Enduring some ups and downs over the years, the car manufacturer has never stopped producing vehicles and aftermarket accessories. "Steve developed a car every single year for 34 years," says Boylan. The company is most commonly known for its Saleen 302 on the Mustang platform, a high performance version of the Ford Mustang with a redesigned body, drivetrain and interior that delivers higher performance.
"Steve also built the S7, the first American supercar which has its own extensive history winning races," says Boylan. "The new S1 is his latest design, an affordable supercar that can reach 180 mph. We like to call it - a sports car with a supercar pedigree." Because of these achievements and capabilities, the company is recognized as an original equipment manufacturer, not a tuner. "We are an OEM," says Boylan. "We’re like a smaller high-end company like Porsche or Ferrari. We get pre-titled vehicles from dealers but we go through all the required testing that all OEMs do."
The market has been good lately, and the company continues to grow with its manufacturing roots in California. "Everything is done here in Southern California," says Boylan. "From the design, engineering, and even getting additional parts from local suppliers." To improve efficiency, Boylan adopted station building, a technique first developed by Toyota. "When you station-build, you can figure out who is doing things correctly, and who needs more training," says Boylan. "Teams sign off on a vehicle when it leaves their station and they own that build. Then everything goes under post inspection. If there’s something that goes wrong, and we see it being repeated, we can retrain or re-educate the team. This is important when you’re expanding the lines and taking the company to the next level."
Boylan points out that Saleen’s way of building vehicles isn’t the same as having a bunch of workers bolting on parts. "Most mechanics and car builders have their own way of doing things. That may not work well here so we retrain," says Boylan. "Steve is adamant about keeping records and keeping manufacturing consistent. Everything has to be exact."
The company also works with many vendors who must maintain that same high level of quality on their end. "We tell our vendors what we expect and show them the quality that it has to be," says Boylan. "Everything must be done well and consistent. We look at every part that comes in and can send parts back to our vendors, so they can make it right. Steve believes, and I agree, that we have to touch everything so that the vehicle looks and sounds like a Saleen."
Boylan realizes that keeping the brand growing involves embracing social media on many levels. The company has Facebook and Instagram pages, and she personally engages online to speak with vehicle owners. "We have customers who have a 1984 Saleen and we still make parts for those cars," says Boylan. "We still support and talk to them. It’s important to talk to customers who have kept loyal to the brand."
Needs: "You can never have enough equipment and people," says Boylan. "In this area of California, it’s hard to find workers. Where we are now, in Corona, California, it’s a great place for a middle-class lifestyle, but not the best place to find executive level employment. Most people at that level are transplants and that’s sometimes difficult.
Challenges: "Trying to grow at the speed we need," says Boylan. "We have turned a corner and are trying to keep up with a growing demand. We have created licensing deals with China to build vehicles over there, but all cars for North America will be designed, engineered, and built in the U.S. There are people here building to design stuff overseas. It’s the same for anyone building a car from scratch."
Opportunities: "Steve has never been pigeonholed into one thing," says Boylan. "He helped build the Ford GT for Ford, He also helped with the Dodge Viper. He’s brilliant in finding new opportunities. The new Saleen 1 (S1) for example breaks the mold for a $100K carbon fiber sports car that can reach 180 mph."