Elaine Bannon: It’s Personal for Chief Nameplate Engineer When it Comes to Lincoln MKX
Elaine Bannon, chief nameplate engineer for the 2011 Lincoln MKX, is part quarterback, part symphony conductor, and she is completely committed to delivering the best crossover in the segment.
Just as a quarterback is expected to follow a game plan, a chief nameplate engineer is tasked with following a cycle plan – the major, moderate or minor improvements a given vehicle might undertake before its next reveal.
And like a quarterback, a chief nameplate engineer will sometimes change the play to help the team win.
“Certainly you follow the product plan, but if I see that something may not meet customer expectations, then I act decisively to refine the plan,” said Bannon. “As the chief nameplate engineer, I take the wants and needs of our customer very seriously. If I see a gap between our plans and the consumer’s needs, it’s my job to make sure it’s fixed.”
A chief nameplate engineer also has to orchestrate the many different teams that contribute to the development of a given vehicle.
“Each group, whether it’s body engineering or vehicle engineering, has a separate, distinct point of view. That’s their job,” said Bannon. “My role is to take all those points of view and optimize them for the customer by balancing the equation for everyone. That’s the only way to achieve world-class, segment-leading products.”
Building on a Leadership Position
With its blend of flexibility, functionality, appearance and fuel economy, the Lincoln MKX crossover has been a segment leader since its debut in 2006 as a 2007 model. The 2011 version is poised to extend that leadership with the addition of industry-first MyLincoln Touch driver connectivity technology heading the list of additions.
“A huge part of the attraction of crossovers is that they appeal to such a wide range of people,” said Bannon. “I think it’s vital that customers are able to bring their lifestyle – their music, their connectivity – into any vehicle, and with innovations like SYNC® and now with MyLincoln Touch we’re making it even easier for customers to do that. That’s one of the main things that set the MKX apart from the competition.”
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
• Bannon writes poetry in her spare time. “It’s something I do here and there when the mood strikes me to express myself,” she says
• She makes it a point to be active physically. “I do some circuit training – a combination of weights and cardio a couple of times a week. I like to jog as well. I try to fit in at least three workouts a week. I also have a road bike I like to use when weather permits”
• Bannon holds two degrees from the University of Michigan – a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering and an MBA
• Her uncle and brother influenced Bannon to go into the automotive field. “They were both engineers and always seemed to have some sort of automotive restoration project going, so I was heavily exposed to all that growing up. I never considered any other field,” she says
• Bannon is a fan of the “Mad Max” movies. “In their own way, I think they really tap in to what we’re doing – that performance and thrill when you push down on the accelerator”
Hak Soo Ha: Exterior Design Manager Draws Upon Early Love of Drawing, Art for Inspiration
Hak Soo Ha, exterior design manager for the 2011 Lincoln MKX, brings a world perspective to the popular luxury crossover. Born in South Korea, Ha moved to Argentina when he was 14 before coming to the United States for college. He earned his degree from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.
Throughout those travels, one consistent theme emerged.
“As a boy I always loved cars and I enjoyed drawing and painting, so my career came very naturally,” said Ha.
One TV show in particular stoked his interest while growing up in Argentina – “El Auto Fantastico,” better known as “Knight Rider” in the United States. Perhaps a new generation of auto designers was inspired by the updated version, which featured a Mustang Shelby GT500KR in the starring role.
Ha joined Ford in 2001. Prior to his assignment with the MKX crossover, Ha assisted with the exterior design of Ford’s family of midsize cars: the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr (now MKZ).
“I enjoy working with many, very talented and dedicated people who share the same automotive passion,” said Ha. “I love working for Ford because it gives me great pride to work for an American company that puts its priority on families and customers.”
That passion clearly carries over to the new MKX.
“With the MKX we wanted to create a look that was more crafted and fully embraced the Lincoln signature DNA, with the addition of the split-wing grille, more brightwork and a high-tech treatment of the lamps,” said Ha.
Paddling Through the Waves and Keeping the Beat
Away from work, Ha and his wife, Kate, and their two sons, Johannes, 5, and Elliot, 1, take advantage of Michigan’s abundant natural beauty, especially on lakes, rivers and streams. Ha enjoys both kayaking and paddling surf skis, which are similar to kayaks except the occupant sits on top rather than inside.
He’s also an aspiring drummer.
“I recently bought a five-piece Ludwig drum set, and I am learning how to play,” said Ha, adding that the boys love to play with it as well – pretty much guaranteeing just about no peace and quiet for mom.
“She doesn’t mind … I think,” said Ha.
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
• Ha’s all-time favorite Ford vehicle is the 2002-03 Focus RS – “I love drifting and
off-road rally racing. I also like its looks and practicality,” he says
• What happened to the first car he owned? It was stolen and wrecked
• Ha’s favorite place to hang out is by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Empire, Mich. “It is quiet, peaceful, and the scenery with the blue water and golden sand is breathtaking”
• At one time Ha had a 1963 Ford Thunderbird and a 2003 SVT Focus as part of a four-car stable in his garage. Today it’s a Ford Flex and a Ford Mustang
Rich Kreder: Previous Fighter Jet Experience Helps Keep 2011 Lincoln MKX on the Fast Track
No question, a fighter jet is much faster than even the fastest production car – by 1,500 mph or so. But when it comes to the pace of the car business, automobile companies can seem to be on full afterburners by comparison.
That desire for a faster pace is partly what prompted Rich Kreder, vehicle engineering manager for the 2011 Lincoln MKX luxury crossover, to leave the defense industry for the auto industry. Kreder, who has two electrical engineering degrees, had previously worked on weapons systems for the Air Force’s F-15E strike fighter.
“It was my first job out of school and it was right before the Gulf War,” said Kreder. “I was responsible for test equipment used to certify the proper interface between the weapon and the airplane – basically, I had to ensure the weapon would release properly when directed by the pilot.”
Kreder, who was working toward a master’s degree in electrical engineering, enjoyed his job, but he was intrigued when Ford searched for additional electrical systems engineering talent while recruiting in St. Louis. Kreder joined the company in 1993, and says going from working on the electrical systems of fighter jets to working on the electrical systems of cars wasn’t a huge jump.
“They’re actually very similar from a technology or functions standpoint,” Kreder said. “The big change for me was how much product was produced. With the fighters, you might complete a few a month. At Ford, we’re producing a vehicle every minute at most of our plants.”
From Electrical Systems to Vehicle Engineering
After seven years on Ford’s Electrical and Electronics Systems Engineering team, Kreder was looking for a new challenge. While attending school at night, he completed an MBA from the University of Michigan and was searching for new opportunities. Instead of working on one system or component, Kreder wanted to be more involved with the total vehicle, with a greater focus on the customer perspective.
“I wanted the broader perspective of the entire vehicle versus designing all the wires or all the switches,” said Kreder. “So I went into vehicle engineering. I like it because it’s customer focused and covers the total vehicle. We have the opportunity to make the product better for the customer, and vehicle engineering encompasses the overall vehicle experience of the customer.”
The vehicle engineering manager works with several teams to make sure all the functional attributes – steering, handling, braking, wind noise, road noise, performance and many more – are properly balanced in order to exceed customer expectations, which has been an ongoing theme with the Lincoln MKX.
“We’ve taken several actions to make the driving experience even more enjoyable for the customer,” said Kreder. “I think the overall interior quietness really stands out as a surprise and delight.”
Away from work, Kreder enjoys tackling projects around the house. “I’ve definitely paid for a few aisles at the various home improvement stores,” he said.
Family Likes to Travel
Maybe inspiration will strike during one of the family road trips. Kreder and his wife of 17 years, Laura, and children Kayla and Josh like to head out to spots around Michigan as well as places in Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri. The family also likes to venture to Disney World in the winter to escape the Michigan cold.
“Michigan has a great summer, but too short a spring, too short a fall, and the winter is way too long,” said Kreder.
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
• A native of St. Louis, Kreder has been married to Laura for 17 years. They have two children, daughter Kayla, 9, and son Josh, 7. They live in Northville, Mich.
• Kreder’s daily driver is a 2004 Ford SVT Mustang Cobra. He does all the routine maintenance and “a few performance enhancements”
• Kreder’s Cobra was a replacement for a 2003 model, which met with all sorts of grief. First a tornado caused a tree to fall on it and crush it pretty badly. After it was repaired, it was rear-ended by another vehicle at a red light and totaled
• Kreder earned his bachelor’s degree from Purdue and is an avid Boilermaker fan. He’s attended nearly all of Purdue’s football games at the University of Michigan, including taking Josh and Kayla to their first football game to witness the victory by the Boilers that ended a 43-year losing streak in Ann Arbor
Doyle Letson: Chief Designer for 2011 Lincoln MKX, Comfortable with a Pencil or a Microphone
Doyle Letson, chief designer of the 2011 Lincoln MKX, came by sea to the automotive world. He had a successful career designing boats in Florida when a trip to the annual North American International Auto Show caused him to drop anchor in Dearborn, Mich.
“I came to the auto show with a co-worker, who was formerly at Ford, to look for concepts for our boats,” Letson recalled. “The moment I walked in the door, I fell in love with designing cars. It was like, ‘Wow. This is what I’ve been looking for my whole life.’ ”
Letson then gave himself a crash course, so to speak, on car design.
“I basically learned how to sketch cars on my own by trial and error, put together a portfolio and came to Detroit,” said Letson. He joined Ford in 1994 as a designer and steadily moved up through the ranks.
As chief designer for the 2011 Lincoln MKX, Letson’s role was to lead and assist his interior and exterior design teams as they developed the themes for the latest iteration of the popular luxury crossover.
“Starting with the exterior, the amount of change that we incorporated is phenomenal,” said Letson. “The 2011 Lincoln MKX very much has its own identity and a strong presence.”
The interiors on the 2011 Lincoln MKX are all new, incorporating new MyLincoln Touch driver connect technology in the instrument cluster, center stack and steering wheel. The new technology blends Lincoln signature in-vehicle features into a cohesive interior experience, facilitating intuitive control and personalization.
“Visually, this new technology makes a very modern statement in the interior. The exterior themes are translated into the interiors, and they complement them nicely,” added Letson. “Both the exterior and interior designs are harmonious and seamless. The 2011 Lincoln MKX interior creates a warm, luxurious environment.”
From Sketching to Singing
When Letson moved to Michigan, he found not only his calling in terms of a career but also reconnected with a passion from the past: singing in a band.
“Singing was something I did a long time ago – in college and after college. I sang in a band for almost 10 years,” said Letson.
Letson put down the microphone to raise his family but the urge to perform eventually resurfaced. Two years ago, Letson decided to audition for some local bands, and he quickly landed with a group named Homebrewed.
“It’s a great bunch of guys,” Letson said. “Like me, they all have careers and play music on the side. Our original goal was to play maybe one show a month, but it’s grown to double or even triple that amount.”
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
• Letson has been married to his wife Grete for 25 years. They have two daughters, Laura, a senior at the University of Michigan, and Sarah, a senior at Novi High School. They live in Novi, Mich.
• Letson has a bachelor’s degree in industrial design from Purdue University. “The program at Purdue integrated engineering students with the design students. And that’s pretty much real life in the automotive industry. It gave me early exposure to the other mind-set that’s more analytical, as opposed to the visual side of things”
• Before joining Ford in 1994, Letson designed furniture, consumer products, heavy industrial equipment and high-performance boats: “Anything from a 16-foot runabout to a 65-foot motor yacht”
• His first vehicle was a 1956 Ford pickup. Its whereabouts are unknown. “But knowing it’s a Ford truck, it’s probably still running around somewhere,” he says
Jason Mase: Crossover Marketing Manager has Myriad Passions
Jason Mase, Ford’s marketing manager for crossovers, has a wide range of interests. From music to sports to, of course, cars, the Michigan native infuses everything he does with more than a bit of enthusiasm.
His passion for cars began in a usual way: playing with Hot Wheels cars. “I had everything: the car wash, the car park, you name it. When other kids were asking for Star Wars toys, I was asking for Hot Wheels.”
Mase’s father, a 30-year Ford employee, also took him to car shows.
“He never pushed the business on me; it really happened organically,” Mase explained. “A typical summer weekend for us would be to go to a sporting event and a car show. My dad taught me about all the classics. I learned about all the manufacturers and makes from the 1950s onward.”
Mase is still attending car shows, but now he’s on the other side presenting vehicles to the public. The next is the 2011 Lincoln MKX luxury crossover, which features the first implementation of Ford MyLincoln Touch driver connect technology.
“One of the things Ford has been trying to do is put in technology that makes customers’ lives easier,” said Mase. “That’s really what MyLincoln Touch does. As a driver connect technology, it makes it seamless to access information – your infotainment, vehicle functions – in a very simple way.”
The debut of MyLincoln Touch, which provides three full-color screens that offer a wide variety of vehicle, communication, navigation and entertainment information to the driver, is one of many innovations found on the 2011 Lincoln MKX. The luxury crossover received an extensive exterior freshening and an all-new interior as well as a new powertrain that boasts best-in-class horsepower and torque versus all V-6 competitors along with unsurpassed fuel economy.
“The Lincoln MKX has been a success for the company because about 50 percent of its sales have been conquest-based,” said Mase. “Our customers tell us the top purchase reasons for the Lincoln MKX are styling and technology. For the 2011 model, we’ve amplified the styling, updated the interior to bring it up to world-class levels of craftsmanship and design, and when you get in the vehicle and MyLincoln Touch comes alive, you see the technology. There’s just no mistaking that the 2011 Lincoln MKX has tremendous design and is loaded with usable technology.”
Many Interests and Passions
Away from work, Mase has several interests and passions that keep him and his family busy.
“I’m a big kid at heart, so I love to see the world through the eyes of my kids,” Mase said. “I love taking them out around the Detroit area to explore new things, root for the Tigers and just have fun.”
In addition to sports, Mase also is a music enthusiast. He enjoys all genres – he has approximately 5,000 songs cataloged – and also knows how to play the saxophone.
“I sometimes drive my wife nuts while we’re in the car because I go from station to station, listening to different kinds of music,” said Mase.
Truly, Mase is enthusiastic when it comes to just about everything at home and at work.
“I’m proud to work for a company like Ford,” said Mase. “It has a true heart and soul to it. No matter where I travel, I can see the impact our cars, trucks and crossovers have on people. There is true emotion in the eyes and voices of our customers when they describe their all-time favorite and current Ford products.”
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
• Mase has been married to Melissa for eight years. They live in Royal Oak with their children Natalie, 5, and Matthew, 15 months. “Royal Oak provides a nice mix of suburban living with urban flare,” he says. “I also love the four seasons in Michigan – you can always find something new to explore and do year-round.”
• In the Mase family garage, you’ll find a 2010 Lincoln MKT crossover and a 2010 Ford Fusion Sport. And a 2008 Mustang GT Convertible Power Wheels for Natalie. “I’m trying to start her love for cars at a young age, too,” says Mase
• Mase has degrees in sports management and communications from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Indiana University
• Mase’s first car was a 1987 Ford Tempo “Sport” GL that was purchased with, as Mase puts it, “60,000 not-so-gentle miles on it.” It lasted through high school and most of college
• His favorite car is the 1967 Shelby GT500® Mustang. “I love the fastback design, and it’s the spiritual influence for the GT500 Mustangs of today,” he says
• Mase is a big fan of the Detroit Tigers and Michigan football
Jim Smithbauer: Design Manager Always on the Go, Just Like the 2011 Lincoln MKX Luxury Crossover
Jim Smithbauer’s role as design manager for the 2011 Lincoln MKX fits him well. Like the popular, midsize luxury crossover, the Detroit native is seemingly always on the go.
“My friends refer to me as the ‘cruise director’ because I’m always arranging get-togethers,” said Smithbauer, who also occasionally sings a mean rendition of The Clash’s iconic “Rock the Casbah” with a friend’s band.
In keeping with the on-the-move theme, Smithbauer’s favorite auto-related movie is “Bullitt,” primarily because of the legendary car-chase scene involving Steve McQueen’s Highland Green 1968 Mustang fastback. In those days before movies used digital images for special effects, actual, real cars (and real people) created the action. “Best car chase ever,” Smithbauer enthused.
Incidentally, Smithbauer’s 11-year-old son is named Chase; he hasn’t inherited his dad’s love of cars … yet.
Designing – Or at Least Drawing – Cars at an Early Age
For the elder Smithbauer, that indoctrination started early. “My first word was ‘car,’ ” Smithbauer said. “I was always drawing cars as a kid, so car design was just a natural progression.”
Smithbauer earned a bachelor’s degree in Transportation Design from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. He interned at Ford’s design center in the summer of 1991 and has essentially been with the company ever since. Smithbauer is responsible for the complete interior appearance of various car and crossover vehicle lines.
“My favorite part of the job is when I first get to drive a vehicle I’ve helped design and show it off to friends and family,” Smithbauer said. “It was particularly exciting this time with the MKX because the styling and the advanced technology like MyLincoln Touch is so well integrated.”
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
• Smithbauer has a soft spot for 1970s-era “land yachts” like the Lincoln Mark V Bill Blass Designer’s Series and Country Squire station wagons
• Smithbauer’s favorite car is a tie between the 1967 Mustang (“best embodies the spirit of Mustang in its appearance”) and the 1961 Lincoln Continental Convertible (“I love its combination of being a cleanly styled four-door convertible with suicide doors”)
• He has two Mustang convertibles – a ’73 model with a 351 Cleveland V-8 and 43,000 original miles and a new 2010 GT
Scott Tobin: Vehicle Director Brings Wide-Ranging Perspective to 2011 Lincoln MKX Crossover
Scott Tobin, Ford’s vehicle line director for cars and crossovers, is grateful to have had the opportunity to work overseas. But the native of Blue Lake, Mich., is glad to be back in his home state.
“Living overseas was a growth experience almost beyond description,” said Tobin. “To be exposed to different cultures was personally enriching. From a business perspective, I was eager to implement the lessons learned from those experiences into our products here in North America.”
Tobin’s globetrotting began in 1997 in Japan, with Mazda in Powertrain Engineering. Next, in 1999, Tobin moved to Germany for Ford of Europe, where he worked on the global C-car
programs. In 2001, Tobin was promoted to chief engineer of powertrain applications for Ford of Europe, which was based in England. Then from 2003 to 2006, he was vice president of Quality for Ford of Europe.
A lot of different places and a lot of different responsibilities, but one common theme.
“The formula for success isn’t any different: Make your products world-class,” said Tobin.
Tobin’s background in quality makes him especially proud of the 2011 Lincoln MKX.
“To me, quality has a couple of facets,” said Tobin. “You need to have basic quality – durability and reliability; this is a ticket of entry. But then there’s overall product appeal – you not only want to be in the vehicle, you want to be seen in the vehicle. It fits your image and has all the connectivity, comfort and convenience features that surprise and delight. The 2011 MKX has that overall appeal – in abundance.”
The crossover segment continues to be one of the hottest, which is no surprise to Tobin.
“Crossovers meet real needs,” said Tobin. “People still need cargo space, passenger room and the ability to tow, but they want it in an engaging, refined and fuel-efficient package. You get that with the 2011 MKX. It has all of that versatility as well as all the convenience and connectivity features like our new MyLincoln driver connect technology, SYNC®, MyKey™ and our blind spot information system.”
Returning to His Roots
Tobin is from Blue Lake, Mich., near Muskegon, which is in the western part of the state. He has a cabin there, and Tobin and his wife Mary and two sons Nicholas, 15, and Lucas, 13, visit often.
“It’s a beautiful part of the state,” said Tobin. “We like to go boating, water ski, ride quads. I also try to squeeze in a round of golf from time to time.”
The boys were just 1 and 2 years old when Tobin got his first overseas assignment.
“So, yes, I bring my wife to Japan with two babies, and we didn’t speak a lick of Japanese. Those were the days!” Tobin said. “But it was a lot of fun.”
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
• Tobin has been married to Mary for 15 years. They have two sons, Nicholas, 15, and Lucas, 13. They live in Ann Arbor
• Tobin joined Ford in 1989 and held assignments in Powertrain Engineering, Quality and in the Product Business and Strategy Office before becoming the vehicle line director for cars and crossovers in 2006
• The Tobin family has both an Edge and a Flex. He’d like to add a 1969 Mustang Boss, one of the most sought-after muscle cars ever. “That car just makes your heart pump a little faster. Fast and beautiful”
• Tobin is a member of the board of directors of AutoAlliance International, where the Mustang is built