Nancy Gougarty Prepares for Westport’s Next Chapter

Nanchy Gougarty | BCBusiness
President and COO Nancy Gougarty aims to keep a tight lid on costs as Westports expands markets and product lines.

BCBusiness catches up with Westport Innovations’ newly appointed president and COO Nancy Gougarty by phone at her home in South Carolina

As BCBusiness reported earlier this week, Westport Innovations Inc. announced last week that it had hired Nancy Gougarty as president and chief operating officer, a position that has been vacant since 2010.

An executive with more than 30 years’ experience in the auto parts industry—many of those years spent overseeing Asia-Pacific operations from Shanghai, first for General Motors Co. and later for TRW Automotive Corp.—Gougarty was hired to help lead Wesport to its next stage of growth. In Westport’s August 1 announcement of second-quarter earnings, CEO David Demers noted of Gougarty, “we expect her leadership will help move us quickly forward as we transition from our market creation phase to profitable commercial operations.” Gougarty explains to BCBusiness how she envisions the company’s next chapter.

You were working in Shanghai for several years, and have just accepted a position in Vancouver. So where is home?
That’s a tough question! I guess wherever my dogs and husband are. [Laughter] Now I’m in South Carolina, but As of 1:28 Eastern Standard Time today, my rental application in Vancouver has been accepted, so I’m moving there on the 18th of August, starting at Westport the 19th.
The press release announcing your appointment mentions that you will provide direction as Westport moves from R&D to international product delivery. Westport already delivers products internationally, so what exactly does that mean?
The company has an exciting portfolio of products that are coming on-stream and an even more diversified customer base. In a lot of cases we have a lead customer, then we have customers that follow on, so as we’re adding customers that are going to be using our product very short term, we need to add more muscle and make sure that we can deliver on all of our promises and ensure our customers are getting the best product on time at the best cost and also the highest quality.
Does moving from R&D toward extending the product lines and markets also involve a tighter goal on reaching profitability?
Because of sensitivity around profitability and the markets, I’m not sure I can talk in detail about what our plans are, but certainly one of my mandates is to focus on operations and get it to its best cost, and I think that will prove to have an impact relative to the profitability of the company. My mandate is really to come in and affect our costs and get them to the best we possibly can and ensure our customers are happy.
Does your extensive background in China indicate a new focus for Westport in that country?
We have a very successful joint venture in China at the moment, and as some of our other customers are deploying their products in the China we also support them. So Westport’s strategy in China isn’t really changing, but with my experience in China there are probably some ways we can hone that in. And also ways that we can just ensure that we are delivering successfully into that market and meeting their needs. Because in some cases what Europe needs is different than what North America needs, and what China needs is different than what Japan needs and Korea, etc. So we need to be able to tune this up and with my international experience I have a lot of understanding of what those nuances are and that’s really what [Westport CEO David Demers] brought me on to do: to help him be able to finesse those areas.