DEARBORN - Ford won three awards in this year’s Detroit Free Press Automotive Leadership Awards, which were presented to the Ford team earlier this week. The company was honored in the Design, Up and Coming and Green categories.
The Design and Up and Coming awards were presented during Raj Nair’s, group vice president, Product Development, operating committee meeting. The Ford Fusion continued its accumulation of accolades with the Design team award and Jeffrey Jones, assistant chief engineer, China Vehicles, was honored as an Up and Coming leader.
“This is the second year that we have given these awards,” said Greg Gardner, Detroit Free Press. “This decision was pretty clear with the bold statement of the exterior combined with the different powertrain options as well as the interior.”
Executive Director for North American Design Moray Callum accepted the award from Gardner. Nearly 20 people from the Fusion team were on hand for the presentation.
“I just want to congratulate the whole team,” said Callum. “Well done to everybody here. We’re represented by all of our partners. I also want to thank our team members from around the world.”
Gardner also presented the award for Up and Coming leader. Nair accepted the award on Jones behalf.
The Green award presentation was a surprise for David Berdish, manager, Social Sustainability. The presentation occurred during John Viera’s, director, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering, staff meeting.
Viera asked his entire team to be present for the meeting to be a part of the presentation.
“This category was pretty easy for us, we received five or six nominations from all over, not just Ford Motor Company,” said Gardner. “Just the many aspects of Dave’s career even before his current position really stood out from the nominees. I’m honored to be able to give this to you today. Awards are nice, but keep up the good work.”
Designed for a global audience
For the design of the new Fusion, the team had high aspirations to meet.
“We wanted to make something that was drop-dead gorgeous,” said J Mays, group vice president, Design and chief creative officer. “We wanted something that would stand out from the vanilla looking cars in the midsize segment.”
The Fusion was the first vehicle to have a global design competition and that competition led a beautifully refined car.
“It’s a harsh competition,” said Sewon Chun, senior interior designer. “From the beginning there were 20 designers vying for their designs. However, through the competition we had access to European and Australian design, giving our team inspiration and helping us to strengthen our design.”
And that led to a stunning outcome.
“The input from our different design studios around the world gives Fusion an international feel - and that makes it an even more interesting automobile,” said Mays. “What made it so beautiful is the attention to detail. Designing a beautiful car doesn’t necessarily cost more, but it requires time: every detail in the Fusion is not more expensive, it’s more refined so it looks more expensive.”
Chun believes that Dillon Blanski, senior exterior designer, and the rest of the exterior team had a hard task with the exterior.
“With the exterior it’s love at first sight,” said Chun. “The exterior attracts people to dealerships. The team had to make a beautiful car that everybody would love. Everybody had to love the exterior. The interior is the surprise ‘wow’ that makes Fusion even better.”
To Blanski the most rewarding part of the job is hearing people’s reactions to the vehicle.
“When we get feedback from people saying that they love it, to me that says I’ve accomplished something that people both want and desire.”
Ford’s up and coming leader
Jones currently manages development of vehicles for China, a market that holds a lot of growth potential for the company.
His roll plays a part in all aspects of vehicle development including engineering, design, marketing, finance, purchasing and manufacturing.
“It’s about understanding the need of customers in China and developing products to meet those needs,” said Jones.
And one of those differences is creating an engaging rear seat area.
“There’s an increased interest in rear seat,” said Jones. “For example, we need to make sure there is a tablet holder. The rear seat has a lot more activity in China and we are designing to meet the markets need.”
China also has a very distinct style of design. The market has a demand for cars with a grand appearance but not flashy. Aggressively styling like that of the North American Ford Taurus SHO would not appeal to the Chinese customers.
“This role is a great chance to understand the customer and deliver great products,” he said.
Jones first started working at Ford while still in high school as a part of special program earned a one-month internship over the summer before he started college.
The internship kept getting extended, and he was asked to stay on. Jones worked part time during the school year, while attending the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and full time during the summers.
Upon graduating with a computer and electrical engineering degree, Ford brought him on full time.
After some years with the company he left to pursue a business degree from Harvard and started his own company with a colleague, Local Motors.
He returned to the company in 2008, just as the downturn auto industry was hitting.
“I wanted to get involved and to help Ford,” said Jones.
And he has been ever since.
Continued green leadership
While Berdish was surprised by the Detroit Free Press award, there’s no question why he won.
He’s been working on a mobility project with Ford of India known as SUMURR, sustainable urban mobility with uncompromised rural reach.
“The project gives reason for technology in vehicles to help reach women in rural communities outside of out Chennai plant,” said Berdish. “We want to help them get the care they need while pregnant. There is a 50 percent mortality rate for women mothering kids in the region.”
The project is so cool that Berdish was invited to the capital last week and was recognized by the state department. While there he had a chance to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her last week on the job.
“She said it was one of the cooler projects her terms been working on,” said Berdish.
And now the project is looking to expand.
Berdish also is working on a new project on conflict minerals from the Dodd-Frank legislation that passed last year.
“We have to report on any raw materials that we use in our supply chain that may have come from the Congo,” he said. “That’s going to be a lot of work. But there’s a good team from Purchasing, Materials, Product Development and the Office of General Counsel working on it. It’s going to be an energy user for all of us.”
Looking to the future Berdish is keeping his eye on human trafficking. He believes local regulations in California will become federal legislation.
Ford is pioneering human rights in the automotive industry and is being recognized for the company’s mission.
“We’re still the only one in our industry to have a code (Policy Letter No. 24), audit the code and report against the code publically on our sustainability website,” said Berdish. “In the last two out of three years Corporate Responsibility Officer has said we have the strongest human rights practices regardless of region or industry.”
The company has also been highlighted in the top five companies for human rights around the world by change.org.
“To have a company that stands for human rights and a management team that supports it is just amazing,” he said.