From a cotton farm, Billy Vickers worked his way to building a billion dollar automotive supplier business

BY Preta Peace Namasaba January 10, 2024 4:30 PM EDT
Billy Vickers
Billy Vickers. Photo Credit: Lindsay Weisenauer

Billy Vickers’ success story sounds like the quintessential rags-to-riches tale but if you asked him, he would probably disagree. As President and CEO of Modular Assembly Innovations, he grew his company into one of the largest minority-owned businesses in the United States, generating revenue of over $1.2 billion.

He credits a relationship of trust for this success:

It’s about being a good business person, a good individual. Someone that people respect. Someone that they trust that if you make a commitment, you keep it. I think the key to my success is that my customer knows that. If there’s a problem, then we’re going to come up with a solution; we’ll find a way to make it happen. I think probably the biggest thing is trust. My customer trusts me because it knows I’m going to do the right thing.

For Vickers, it’s his personal ethics that has grown Modular Assembly. These are the ethics of being steadfast, dependable and knowing the value of work. Growing up on a Southern cotton farm owned by his grandfather. All of his family worked on that farm and from early in the morning to late at night, Vickers would take care of the animals and the crops. This background of hard work combined with his personal faith prepared Vickers for success.

Following the persuasion of a football coach, Vickers began playing football as a high school freshman. He realized that he was a team player and honed his athletic skills. Vickers earned a place at North Carolina State University, becoming the first in his family to attend college. He pursued a Bachelor of Applied Science with S major in animal science. Vickers dreamed of going professional and playing in the National Football League.
He unfortunately received a disastrous knee injury two months before graduating.

Although he was drafted by the Washington Redskins in 1980, Vickers never played and was soon released. He signed with another team but his knee injuries persisted, putting an end to his football career. Vickers served as a management trainee at Corning Electronics and later worked at a brass foundry.

He was soon recruited to work at a steel mill where he was promoted to plant superintendent. Within eight years, Vickers was in charge of the largest minority-owned foundry at the time which made parts for Chrysler. He learned a lot about the automotive industry and developed his leadership skills from running the plant. Due to global competition, Vickers helped the plant shut down in 2003.

By then, Vickers had already established his own business, Quality Engineering, which did work for automotive suppliers. His reputation as a transformational leader had grown and he was brought on as president and CEO of Great Lakes Assemblies LLC in 2005. The company was owned by TAG Holdings LLC and Midwest Express Inc., with Honda, as a partner. Vickers bought out TAG Holdings’ interest in Great Lakes Assemblies and established Modular Assembly Innovations, LLC.

Modular Assembly Innovations produces automobile center console modules, powertrain accessory modules, tire and wheel assemblies, chassis components and engine components for Honda. It also provides supply chain management solutions such as procurement of parts used in the manufacture and assembly of modules, delivery of the modules and other Value-added services. In 2019, the company generated $1.2 billion and was ranked fifth in largest black-owned businesses.

“In 2005, we had one facility with 52 people, and in terms of revenue, we were doing about $150 million a year. In 2010, when I bought the companies, we had three facilities and roughly about 386 associates. We had about $500 million in sales. By 2013, we had grown to three facilities and revenue of $1.2 billion a year.” Vickers said.

In addition, he became the majority owner of Gulf Shore Assemblies, and Indiana Assemblies in partnership with Midwest Express, Inc., a Honda-owned company. Vickers took over as President and CEO of Modular Assembly Innovations in 2010.

Under his leadership, revenue has increased eightfold