By Ashley Reyes
Fenton Liffick, a pioneer of the SEMA Wheel and Tire Council (WTC), has been named the WTC’s latest volunteer spotlight member. With more than 65 years of experience in the automotive aftermarket, including an extensive resume of spearheading various auto manufacturers and aftermarket companies, Liffick is one of the founding members of the Wheel Industry Council (WIC), the precursor to today’s WTC.
Liffick was honored as WTC Person of the Year in 2004, given service awards in 2005 and 2015, and was presented with the WTC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 for his dedication and contributions to the industry. Read more about his journey through the aftermarket and how WTC has impacted his professional career in his Q&A with SEMA.
SEMA: What led you to obtaining a career in the wheel and tire industry?
Fenton Liffick: My first exposure to the wheel industry was in the fall of 1955, when I was assigned by my employer to provide technical service in the use of finishing chemicals by Kelsey-Hayes in Michigan and its French & Hecht farm implement wheel division in Iowa. Over the following eight years, I received a thorough education in the manufacturing and finishing of steel wheels at those two companies.
My first break into the aftermarket wheel industry was the design of a center anode assembly for the planting of steel wheel rims at Caltron Planting. I went on to use my background in manufacturing and finishing to help several aftermarket wheel pioneers until I was hired as general manager for Keystone Automotive in January 1967. I continued to move on, and each step, each move, each accomplishment has been intriguing and rewarding. Working with other individuals in the industry has been very educational and has helped me produce a better product.
SEMA: How has being a WTC volunteer or member impacted your professional career?
Fenton Liffick: Working as a volunteer in the WTC has further confirmed previous experience that working to jointly solve industry problems helps every participant to make a better product and does not have an ill effect on competitiveness. It helps the industry to make better products and helps all participants to grow fruitfully in their careers.
SEMA: What advice do you have for someone pursuing a career in the wheel and tire segment?
FL: My advice to all individuals pursing a career in the wheel and tire industry is to (1) learn the past problems and solutions, and (2), become fully aware of current problems, impending regulations, potential answers and participate in finding potential solutions and current knowledge, and be a force in getting the job done.
SEMA: Where can we find you on a Saturday?
FL: At 94 years old, my Saturdays are spent mostly with my wife, my children and their children in their activities.