GRAND RAPIDS — The most up-to-date industry forecasts and trends will be revealed at the 22nd Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium, hosted by the Van Andel Global Trade Center at Grand Valley State University.

With the theme “Driving Forward,” the event will bring together senior management, business owners and decision-makers from all tiers of the automotive industry.

The virtual event will be held March 11 from 8 a.m.-noon; For a link to the event, register at

Main presentations will be livestreamed. An “Auto Supplier toolbox,” featuring presentations from industry experts, will be provided to registrants leading up to the event. There will be an opportunity for live Q&A with the Auto Supplier Toolbox presenters during breakout sessions.

Sonja Johnson, VAGTC executive director, said attendees will have the ability to network about the ever-changing auto industry.

“The virtual event will allow the audience to benchmark with others to understand how they have been able to keep driving forward despite the increased challenges of the past year,” said Johnson. “Suppliers are managing COVID-19 operations with a stressed global supply chain and increased competition for materials, all while managing traditional internal combustion engine programs and adapting for electric vehicles.”

Keynote speakers include:

  • Michael Smuts, vice president of finance for Lucid Motors. Smuts helps manufacturers and financial firms evaluate and understand the auto industry, as well as provides in-depth analysis of vehicle markets and trends. He spent 25 years at Ford Motor Company where he was CFO for Ford’s business in Southeast Asia with financial oversight for operations in more than 20 countries.
  • Sabreen Akarah-Mere, manager of early career programs at Rivian, an electric vehicle manufacturer. Akarah-Mere spearheaded the University Recruiting program for the company in 2019, taking the company from 50 interns to 250 in 2021. She studied pre-law and data analytics at Syracuse University.
  • Mike Wall, executive director of automotive analysis at IHS. Wall has more than 25 years of financial analysis, forecasting, consulting and manufacturing experience. Prior to joining IHS Markit he was director of forecasting at IRN, Inc.

For a list of panelists and additional event information, visit

Van Andel Global Trade Center 
The Van Andel Global Trade Center (VAGTC) was founded in 1999 as an outreach unit of Grand Valley State University. Jay Van Andel, cofounder of Amway Corporation, saw the opportunity to provide local businesses with access to valuable international resources that he himself required during the early years of developing his business. VAGTC seeks to strengthen the community through helping companies increase their international business and become more competitive in the global marketplace.

Located in the heart of Grand Rapids Michigan, the Van Andel Global Trade Center has helped thousands of business people achieve their goals. In 1999, VAGTC became the grantee-administrator for the Kent-Ottawa-Muskegon Foreign Trade Zone.