While he still will be involved with Cooper-Standard and believes the company is on a strong path, McElya is unsure what lies ahead for the automotive industry and its suppliers.
"I have lived through many technology changes (in the industry)," he said, but doesn't know what future vehicles will look like. "I don't want to say that electric cars are a fad, (But) when you do the math, it just doesn't work."
Until the economics start working, he said, he doesn't expect to see everyone going and buying electric cars.
McElya believes there is at least one thing holding alernative vehicles back. "We as a country can't get an energy policy that makes sense," he said. "If you really want to get serious about it, if the government wants to play a role, talk about the infrastructure."
He doesn't see things changing drastically in the near future. "I'm in the camp that the combustion engine is going to be around for some time.," he said.
Pushes towards better fuel efficiency are starting to be seen by consumers, but McElya warned it isn't free. "It's (greater fuel efficiency) going to come from the whole vehicle, not just the engine," he said, "(and) at the end of the day it's going to cost."
He is optimistic that the industry is coming back strong, but there still are hurdles to cross.
"A lot of people who took out capacity and took out people are struggling to get back," he said.
With production surging, he can see why some car companies and suppliers are having a hard time keeping up with demand. "If we get to 16 million to 17 million units again pretty quickly, are we going to have problems? Absolutely."
After the industry's restructuring, he is uncertain about how the industry will deal with private equity and hedge funds owning so many players. Firms that previously owned the debt prior to restructuring now are finding themselves as company owners.
"It's not their business to be in manufacturing and run a business," McElya said. "So what's going to happen to many of these companies who are owned by what I call unnatural owners?
"When I look over my career, that's the big change I have seen: Who is the ownership of the automotive supply base."
Cooper-Standard itself recently explored the option of seeking out a new buyer. A lot of parties voiced interest, but factors such as the European economic crisis helped prevent any deals from going forward, McElya said.
When he does retire, McElya said he hopes he's remembered simply as being fair. "It's a lot harder than most people understand," he said, since situations arise where what might be fair to one party isn't to another, and he often had to find the common ground.
"That's what I hope people say, 'He was a nice guy, a fair guy,' " he said.