David MacNeil has made a boatload of money "wrapping $150 car floor liners in the flag," reports Dale Buss in Forbes (6/16/14). David is founder of WeatherTech, which he started with "a $50,000 second mortgage" in 1988, and is today a $400 million business. After noticing "the poor quality of car floor mats," he "began importing expensive mats from the United Kingdom" and then switched to "an American contract manufacturer." David’s next move was to measure each vehicle digitally to produce "a precision-fit liner."
He also designed his mats "to trap water, road salt, mud and sand, and edges that ride all the way up to the top of each foot well — a sine qua non for picky car owners trying to protect their investments. Its thermoplastic elastomers don’t turn brittle in midwestern subzero temperatures or break down in summer heat." His next move was to bring all manufacturing in-house, and make a virtue of ‘Made in the USA.’ He figured "there’s a competitive edge to having his factory next to his office and not a half a world away."
David’s plan, however, was not just about a ‘Made in the USA’ advertising message; keeping production at home ensured product quality and on-time delivery to his high-end customers. He pays his semi-skilled employees as much as $20 an hour (the average for comparable work is $16) and refuses local tax abatements because of "strings attached." "If I had to report to a board, there are some decisions I couldn’t justify," says David, who is now dabbling in new products, including a TSA-safe plastic belt for men.