Prechter's life, business had many accomplishments
By Anne Sullivan, Heritage Newspapers
Heinz Prechter came to the United States from Germany in 1963 as a college student with $11 worth of German marks in his pocket and a mind full of ideas.
He introduced sunroofs to the American automobile industry and over the next 35 years built the business into a diverse worldwide empire of automotive Specialty Customization and products. It also includes weekly newspapers, hospitality, transportation, real estate development and beef cattle holdings. ASC has 60 facilities and 5,300 employees worldwide, with companies in the United States, Canada, Germany and South Korea.
In his 59 years, Prechter, who was known for his entrepreneurial skills, political savvy and charitable works, built a diverse empire.
He was granted five honorary doctorate degrees, held directorships of many companies, including the Budd Co. and Thyssen-Krupp Automotive, and of organizations such as the Economic Club of Detroit and United Way. He also served on advisory councils for many universities and received countless awards.
On Friday, July 6, 2001, Prechter died.
- Prechter was born Jan. 19, 1942, in Kleinhobing, Germany, and began his automotive career at 13, working as an apprentice in automotive trim, tool and die making, and coach and body building.
- He completed studies at Berufs-Oberschule and the Polytechnic Engineering School, both in Nuremberg, Germany.
- He came to the United States in 1963 as an exchange student at San Francisco State College, to study business administration and English.
- While attending school in the United States, Prechter noticed that American cars did not have sunroofs, so he began installing them.
- In 1965, at age 23, he founded American Sunroof Co. (now ASC Inc.) in a garage in Los Angeles. To do that, he spent $764 on tools, a workbench from an old door covered with aluminum and a sewing machine from a junkyard.
- Two years later Prechter moved his business to Ecorse, where it installed 500 sunroofs on the 1968 Cougar XR-7s. ASC then moved to Lincoln Park and in 1969 moved to Southgate, where it now has its headquarters.
- In 1972 he became a U.S. citizen.
- In 1973 the first sunroof kits were supplied to automakers for factory installation.
- Through the 1970s, ASC designed and installed custom luxury roof treatments and other specialty options for the American auto industry.
- In 1975 the first glass panel sunroof was made and Prechter received the American Academy Achievement Award.
- Heinz and Waltraud Prechter were married in 1977.
- By 1978 ASC had modified more than 1.6 million American-made vehicles and provided more than 300,000 sunroof modules for factory installation.
- In 1980 he and wife became parents to twins, Stephanie and Paul.
- In 1982 ASC Inc. was formed.
- He was named co-chairman of the German-Americans for Reagan and Bush in 1984.
- In 1985 Prechter formed Heritage Media Corp. and purchased the News-Herald and the former Mellus newspapers and merged the two weekly publications that covered the Downriver region. At the same time, he also purchased the Dearborn Press and Guide. The newspaper holdings now also include weekly papers in Washtenaw County and the Flint area.
- In 1986 he purchased Portside Inn, Wyandotte.
- In 1987, ASC built the Buick GNX, the world’s fastest car from 0 to 60 mph.
- ASC’s Corvette convertible was named one of Road and Track magazine’s "Ten Best Cars of the Year" in 1988.
Heinz Prechter was named the
1988 Newsmaker of the Year
by Crain’s Detroit Business.
- In 1989 he received the B’nai B’rith Great American Traditions Award, and ASC introduced the Dodge Dakota convertible pickup truck.
- In 1990 Prechter was appointed by President George Bush to serve as chairman of the National Advisory Committee on International Trade.
ASC introduced the first single touch/auto close logic sunroof system, pioneered composite technology on hardtops for the Corvette convertible, and the Aeromotive Systems pioneers Trim 3D.
The Automotive Hall of Fame named Heinz Prechter
as its 1990 Automotive Industry Leader of the Year.
- In 1991, ASC built the 100,000th GM Cavalier and Sunbird convertible.
- Prechter took a trade trip to Japan, Australia, Singapore and Korea in 1992.
- Also in that year he worked heavily on the Bush re-election campaign and ASC built a sub-systems assembly facility in Columbus, Ohio.
- In 1993 ASC began supplying sunroofs on the Honda Accord and teamed with Freightliner to develop the FLD 170 sleeper cab.
- In 1994 ASC began production of the fourth generation Toyota Celica convertible.
- In 1995 ASC celebrated 30 years of business and Prechter stepped down from the day-to-day operations of the company he formed, naming Donald Barefoot president. Today, Lawrence Doyle serves as president and CEO.
Also in 1995 ASC revolutionized open-air driving with the production of the Mitsubishi Spyder.
- Prechter earned the Distinguished Service Citation from the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1996 and worked on the presidential campaign for Bob Dole.
- In 1998 he received the True Friends Award from the German American Heritage Foundation International.
- In 1999 he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
- In 2000, ASC celebrated its 35th anniversary.