Brian Byndas: Ford Taurus Program Manager Driven by Enthusiasm, Destiny
Brian Byndas first aimed for a Ford Motor Company engineering career as a junior high school student. More than an adolescent obsession, this goal represented destiny for the car-crazy Byndas – a third-generation Ford employee.
“My father was a Ford lifer, a powertrain calibration specialist and a gearhead of the first order,” said Byndas, proudly. “While I was attending high school in Westland, Mich., Dad spent a great deal of time at Ford’s Arizona proving grounds facility. He returned from one of those trips with my very first car, a 1972 Mercury Comet GT with a 302 V8 and a floor-mounted stick shift. This was followed by a 1973 Mustang Mach 1 with the legendary 351 Cleveland engine.”
The seed had been planted for Byndas.
Both of Byndas’ grandfathers and two uncles also worked at Ford, reinforcing his sense of Blue Oval internal combustion honor and duty.
“The Mach 1 took me through my undergrad degree in mechanical engineering at Lawrence Technological University,” Byndas said. “After joining the company, I earned my master’s in engineering management at Wayne State University in Detroit.”
Byndas’ Ford career has revolved around component engineering and program management, putting him ever closer to the customer. His most recent task was sifting through a mountain of customer and media feedback to the 2010 Taurus, then systematically translating many customer suggestions into production reality.
Byndas has been a Taurus program manager for five years, beginning with the conception and development of the completely reinvented 2010 model. Making terrific even better for the 2013 model – much of it based on attentive listening to real customers – has been a gratifying experience for Byndas.
“The 2010 Taurus scored an incredible 92 percent rating in customer satisfaction, so how do you improve on that?” Byndas asked. “With the goal of continuous improvement, you listen carefully to what Taurus buyers and lessees have to say, you talk to our dealers, and you pore over third-party quality audits, Consumer Reports and other media reactions. That’s how we make a great car even better.”
Byndas is married, the father of three active children, and is an avid boater and fisherman.
Bill Gubing: Varied Roles Help Ford Taurus Chief Engineer See Big Picture
William Gubing – Bill to everyone but his two daughters – set ambitious goals for himself when he started at Ford Motor Company.
“Taking varied jobs across every discipline that somehow impacted the customer was a career objective from the get-go,” said Gubing. “I’ve been involved in setting strategy, body engineering, advanced powertrain development, have led cost-reduction programs, analyzed marketing and sales data, and even served as a production supervisor in a manufacturing facility all while working my way through multiple program leadership roles.”
Spending time with Gubing, his laser-like focus and ability to absorb and interpret vast amounts of data become readily apparent. A multi-tasker by nature, he deftly juggles a BlackBerry, a continuously humming cellphone and an Outlook calendar that resembles a patchwork quilt.
Considering Gubing’s collegiate background, effectively multi-tasking is not entirely out of character. The Long Island, N.Y. native graduated from Bucknell University with a mechanical engineering degree. In addition to playing hockey, Gubing led fellow engineering students in Society of Automotive Engineers motorsports competitions.
A driven student, Gubing went on to Dartmouth, earning a master’s degree in engineering management.
Managing a team of engineering student peers in the design, creation, testing and fielding of a racing vehicle really whet Gubing’s enthusiasm for joining the auto industry.
“My college motorsports team management role was the best possible experience to prepare me for automotive industry product development program management,” reflected Gubing. “It involved process, people and product, under an umbrella of ultracompetitive team spirit.”
What aspect of the 2013 Ford Taurus is Gubing most proud of?
“It’s all of the latest signature technology that we’re able to offer the customer – everything from active park assist to MyFord Touch™,” he said. “As an enthusiast, I’m really excited about the unique design cues and enhanced performance of the Taurus SHO, too.”
Gubing – a food and wine hobbyist – is married to a human resources executive and is the father of two young daughters.
Gordon Platto: Ford Taurus Design Chief Blends Business Sense with Aesthetic Eye
Gordon Platto – Gordo to friends and colleagues – followed his father’s stern advice, putting his passion aside and earning a business administration degree from Western Michigan University.
“My father strongly encouraged me to get a business degree,” said Platto. “He didn’t believe that automotive design – ‘drawing pretty pictures’ – represented a sustainable career path. He was a successful GM executive, so I followed his direction to the letter.”
And yet an internal fire still burned.
“While at Western, I was always sketching and dreaming of designing cars,” Platto reflected. “When I shared this dream with my parents, they said if you have enough ambition after you obtain a ‘real’ degree, we’ll let you attend the Transportation Design program at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. So after four additional years of college, I earned my bachelor of fine arts and started at Ford immediately thereafter.”
Platto’s perspective on going to college twice?
“My business education provides an excellent counterpoint to my eye for design aesthetics. It has helped me to be grounded in the realities of the business when I’m creating and refining the design for a vehicle.”
Working his way through the design ranks over 20 years with Ford, Platto spent considerable time honing designs for the market-leading F-Series pickup trucks. Most recently, he led the design process for several Lincoln models such as the MKS sport sedan, the distinctive MKT crossover and the show-stopping MKR concept vehicle.
His thoughts on the next Taurus?
“Our design objectives for this vehicle were very clear,” offered Platto. “First, we aimed to make Taurus a sportier proposition across the board. Next, we sought to increase design differentiation between series models. Customers, particularly Taurus SHO enthusiasts, asked us to keep the new SHO subtle and understated, but to differentiate it from the Taurus SE, SEL and Limited models with unique design touches.”
Obsessed and inspired by “anything and everything” mechanical and by vintage furniture, Platto is the married father of two sons, ages 14 and 11.
Pei-Wen Hsu: Multicultural Perspective Helps Ford Taurus Marketing Manager Better Understand Customer Insights
Pei-Wen Hsu spends an inordinate amount of time interacting with Ford Taurus customers, peppering them with questions and contemplating their responses to better understand their immediate and future wants and needs.
“While the completely reinvented 2010 Taurus was still in the initial phases of the launch cycle, we set out to better understand buyer motivations,” said Hsu. “We conducted research clinics in the New York metro area, not just to better understand why they chose Taurus, but also to determine what they really liked about the car and what areas they felt could be improved.”
And what did Hsu and her team take away from this experience?
“Buyers told us Taurus had transcended being a family sedan and now represented their reward for achieving personal and professional success,” she said. “Customers no longer buy full-size sedans because they need to, they buy them because they want them. These are savvy consumers who want style, performance and technology, but they’re unwilling to pay the ‘brand tax’ for a European luxury sedan.”
Hsu discovered the reinvented Taurus was attracting customers in transition from other segments such as sport utility vehicles and premium imported sedans. Moreover, Taurus was attracting customers who had previously owned other luxury makes, like BMW.
“We found that they were attracted to the Taurus design,” said Hsu. “Once they drove the Taurus, the blend of performance, craftsmanship and technology sealed the deal. From our time with customers, we also gleaned several insights to help continuously refine the vehicle.”
Understanding the desires of a diverse group of buyers comes easily to Hsu. A native of Taiwan, she earned her undergraduate degree at the prestigious National Taiwan University in Tapei. She went on to earn her MBA at Duke University in North Carolina.
Hsu brings a passionate approach to her work.
“I’ve got the best job in the company,” Hsu said. “Talking to customers about the car they love is incredibly rewarding and motivating, inspiring us to create more vehicles that will excite them.”