NGK Spark Plugs (UK) Ltd has appointed its first-ever non-Japanese UK Managing Director with Marko Wowczyna taking over the role on April 1, replacing Tammy Suzuki who has returned to Japan after four years at the helm.
NGK is one of the best-known suppliers to the UK automotive aftermarket. The company’s success in the UK was set in motion back in the early-1980s by former head Jim Hughes and was continued by his successor Brian Childs.
In the early years, the name NGK was almost exclusively synonymous with spark plugs where their quality proved not only popular within the industry, but also in the field of motorsport where they sparked numerous teams and competitors to World titles on two and four wheels.
The company subsequently introduced glow plugs and other components successfully to the UK including NTK Lambda and other management sensors and is now renowned through its expertise in both ignition and electronics.
NGK is an original equipment (OE) supplier to most of the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers (VMs) with whom it works hand-in-hand to produce parts that are manufactured to meet their specific requirements with the same components being supplied to the independent automotive aftermarket.
Marko, who has nearly 25 years’ experience in the automotive aftermarket, joined NGK Spark Plugs (UK) Ltd in 2012 as General Manager – Aftermarket, since then he has held a number of senior management positions including those of Automotive Director and Deputy Managing Director.
Marko says: “I am looking forward to my new role and the opportunities that will open up as NGK continues to expand product ranges and actively seeks new markets for the future. COVID-19 obviously had an impact on the company, particularly at the peak of the first lockdown, but we have been pleasantly surprised and pleased at how quickly the business has recovered, in both the aftermarket and OEM sectors.
“It has been a positive response and we have seen very strong demand for our product. As most companies, we have had to change how we operate the business over the past twelve months and have had to adapt to operate in a more virtual way.”
Marko said: “We need to be ready for the changes and how as a company we address the pace of change. The move towards electrification is currently driven mainly by the variants of hybrid vehicles (PHEV; HEV or MHEV) where there will still be a need for spark plugs, glow plugs and sensors. We are however not burying our heads in the sand and as a company are actively planning for the future as new technologies have a habit of gaining speed and traction in markets.”
In the past year, on three continents, NGK experts in automotive parts and advanced technical ceramics have been meeting up with prospective business partners to discuss technological advancement in a range of sectors – from automotive and medicine, to the environment and energy.
They are meeting at purpose-designed ‘Venture Labs’. The first one was founded in 2018, quickly followed by inaugurations of all three Venture Labs the subsequent year. The centres are intended as hubs for collaborative, creative technical thinking, that also provide an inspirational showcase for some of the company’s latest innovations.
He said: “By establishing these Venture Labs, we are opening up fresh horizons in new markets where we can make a valuable contribution. The automotive industry is currently undergoing a disruptive change, propelled by globalisation, electrification, digitisation, competition and environmental regulations. We therefore want to contribute to a sustainable society by creating new businesses in sectors with potential for future growth, such as next-generation vehicles, medical care and environmental energy. Our Venture Labs are helping us to reach that goal.”