DEARBORN - Sue Cischke, group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering, retires this week after 11 years of dedicated service to Ford Motor Company and an extensive 35-year career in the automotive industry.
And though she is looking forward to spending time in the Florida sun playing golf and tennis, enjoying the company of family and friends and catching up on some much-needed sleep, Cischke says she is leaving Ford with fond memories.
“I have been very fortunate and I am so proud to have been part of the leadership team at Ford," she said. “What we’ve accomplished has been just incredible.”
Since joining Ford in 2001, Cischke has played a leading role in Ford’s critical initiatives in the areas of environmental sustainability and automotive safety, helping Ford deliver higher levels of performance in fuel efficiency, emissions and safety to its customers throughout the world.
She has been responsible for establishing Ford’s long-range sustainability strategy and environmental policy and assuring that Ford meets or exceeds all safety and environmental regulations worldwide. She also has been responsible for establishing Ford’s long-term safety strategy, promoting aggressive standardization of product technology that delivers real world safety benefits.
Cischke played an instrumental role in introducing the auto industry’s first-ever production inflatable seat belts. And she led Ford’s participation in the effort to develop one national standard for fuel economy, resulting in industry-wide commitments to nearly double fuel efficiency by 2025.
"Sue is a remarkable person who has contributed to this industry in so many very meaningful ways,” said Ziad Ojakli, group vice president, Government and Community Relations. “From my vantage point, Sue has uniquely distinguished herself as a trusted and respected source with governments around the globe. Her friendship, mentorship and good counsel have served us all."
Cischke came to Ford from Chrysler in 2001 in the midst of the Firestone investigation. The timing, she says, provided her with a great opportunity to learn about the company.
“It was actually a very exciting time because you quickly figure out who’s who in the management team. You’re working long hours together. And you understand how decisions get made,” she explained. “It was a very steep learning curve, but a quick way to become part of the team.”
Cischke says what initially attracted her to Ford was Bill Ford’s vision for the environment.
“I was drawn to his vision of ‘cleaner, safer, sooner,’” she said, adding how proud she is of the progress that Ford has made in the environmental arena.
“We are now considered automotive leaders on environmental issues, and I’m particularly proud of our fuel economy leadership,” she said.
Cischke has also played a key role in advancing Ford’s safety reputation.
“When I look at where we are with our top safety ratings, our vehicle safety council, our safety strategy of working with Product Development – I think all those things give us a very firm foundation to continue to build on,” she said.
Throughout her career, Cischke has earned many accolades. In 2008, the Automotive Hall of Fame honored her with its Distinguished Service Citation. In 1997, she received the Horace H. Rackham Award for outstanding humanitarian achievements from the Engineering Society of Detroit – the first woman in the society’s 102-year history to win the award.
In addition, Cischke has been named one of Automotive News 100 Leading Women three times and one of Crain’s Detroit Business Most Influential Women.
“There is a lot more to do but I do think we’ve come to a point where we recognize that women need to be included all aspects of the automotive business. After all, when it comes to buying a car, women influence 80 percent of the decisions,” she said.
“In my retirement I would like to find opportunities to encourage young girls to pursue math and science studies to prepare them for possible careers in engineering. If they don't start taking such classes early in school, engineering is not really an option when they get to college, And I think we would all agree, having more women engineers would be a significant positive for this country”
Cischke says no matter where retirement takes her, she will always be an advocate for Ford.
“There is a face on this company. Bill Ford and the Ford family really have a strong connection, and you don’t see that anywhere else in any other company,” she said. “I'm pleased to have been a part of the larger Ford family and will continue to be an ambassador for the company.”
She says the thing she will miss the most about Ford is the people and her message to employees is simple.
“Alan has taught us the power of teamwork and the true meaning of "One Ford," so just keep up the good work. You’re on the right track,” she said. “And keep working together”
When asked how she would like to be remembered by the people at Ford, Cischke responded poignantly, “I hope they see me as a leader, as a people person and as someone who cared.”