Gentex founder retires


Fred Bauer. Courtesy Gentex

The founder of an automotive components maker in the region has retired.

Zeeland-based Gentex Corporation said last week its founder, CEO and chair of the board, Fred Bauer, retired, effective Dec. 31.

Bauer will continue to serve as chair emeritus and advisor.

Long-time Gentex executive Steve Downing will replace Bauer as CEO.

The company’s board of directors appointed James Wallace, the current lead independent director, to take over as board chair.

“On behalf of the entire board of directors and everyone at Gentex, I would like to thank Fred Bauer for his extraordinary vision, leadership and significant track record of success as CEO and chairman,” Wallace said.

“Our board has been preparing and planning for the future and believes that the current management team is well prepared and fully capable of maintaining Gentex’s historic levels of innovation, growth and financial performance. 

During Bauer’s career, Gentex, founded in 1974, grew from a startup to a company with about $17 million in market capitalization at its initial public offering in 1981 to about $6 billion in market capitalization today.

Downing’s background

Downing joined Gentex in 2002 as a financial analyst, moved up to senior financial analyst, then served as director of commercial management, until his promotion in 2012 to VP of commercial management.

In May 2013, he was promoted to CFO and VP of finance, while maintaining responsibility for all commercial management activities.

In June 2015, Downing was promoted to SVP with added responsibility for the company’s business development and sales functions.

In August, Downing took on concurrent roles as president, COO, interim CFO and treasurer.

On Dec. 31, he was promoted to CEO.

Previously, Downing worked for a private company executing activity-based costing, price modeling and control and financial statement consolidation.

He is a native of Ohio and graduated from Liberty University with a B.S. degree in finance and management.

Wallace’s background

A member of the board of directors at Gentex since 2007, Wallace is also chair of the board of Columbus, Ohio-based Cranel, a support company to the storage and imaging industry, which he founded in 1985.

He served as president and CEO of Cranel for more than five years.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from North Dakota State University and an M.B.A. from the University of Iowa.


Gentex Corporation (Nasdaq: GNTX) is a supplier of automatic-dimming rearview mirrors and electronics for the automotive industry, dimmable aircraft windows for the aviation industry and products for the fire-protection industry.  

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