Super Duty ‘North American Truck of the Year’ Win Demonstrates Focus, Excellence and Collaboration

Jan 11, 2024

When the Ford F-Series Super Duty was named 2024 North America Truck of the Year, no one could have been happier than Andrew Kernahan.

“I was thrilled and very proud,” said Kernahan, chief program engineer for Super Duty. “This is tremendous recognition for the entire team.” 

Kernahan said Super Duty’s success is due largely to the team’s unwavering focus on excellence and the customer.

“We look at everything through the eyes of the customer. What is the right content? What would our customers really value on the truck?” he said. “And by having that lens, we’re able to identify what the priorities are, where our pain points are and make the right product decisions.” 

Much of that customer insight comes from the team itself, many of whom are Super Duty users. The team also keeps a constant, watchful eye on what customers are saying in online forums, social media posts and influencer channels.

“We’re all social media voyeurs.  We watch the various groups out there to see what comments are being made, and we talk about the feedback daily,” said Kernahan. “It all comes back to a relentless focus on the customer.” 

Another thing that makes Super Duty stand out, said Kernahan, is the way people from different functions collaborated with one another toward a common goal.

“That is the secret sauce. Getting everybody rowing the boat in the same direction is incredible when it starts to happen,” he said. “Our engineering team, our manufacturing team – both at Kentucky Truck and Ohio Assembly – and our supplier teams are second to none in terms of how we operated as one team on one mission.”  

Another person thrilled about Super Duty claiming North America Truck of the Year honors is Joe Closurdo, plant manager, Kentucky Truck Plant.

“This was a direct result of great people building a great product!” he said. “The dedication, focus, collaboration and commitment to excellence is what makes the Kentucky truck team, in my eyes, the greatest truck builders in our industry.”

Several other plants supported Super Duty assembly with the engine, transmission and stamping including: Sharonville Transmission Plant, Windsor Engine Plant, Chihuahua Engine Plant, Buffalo Stamping Plant, Chicago Stamping Plant, Dearborn Stamping Plant, Dearborn Diversified Manufacturing Plant, Michigan Integral Stamping & Assembly, Rawsonville Components Plant and Sterling Axle Plant.

“Working on a luxury SUV uses a completely different set of muscles than a heavy-duty pickup,” he said. “But what I really learned running the Navigator program is how to set priorities, bring things back to the customer and really get the team focused on executing. So, while it’s a completely different product with a different set of priorities, the principles of how we operated are very similar.”

The main operating principle included setting five key tenets early in the Super Duty program that guided decision-making throughout the development process: unmistakable Built Ford Tough interior and exterior appearance; meaningful claims of growth and leadership; bed access and technology to enable the towing experience; an unsurpassed luxury experience; and connective services and features for customers who are using the truck for work or recreation. 

Leading engineering for two vehicles that claimed Truck of the Year honors is a career highlight for Kernahan, who grew up in a small farming village in Northern England.

“I am told that I learned the alphabet by reading license plates on the back of cars,” he said.

“My passion around this industry started at a very young age. It’s consumer-driven, which brings it back to the customer. It’s mass production, it’s heavy engineering, and then what really excites me these days is the addition of start-of-the-art computing,” he continued. “With those four elements can you imagine anywhere more fun to work?”

Kernahan has been with Ford for nearly 30 years. He has worked on a variety of programs, including the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition, S-MAX, Galaxy, Focus and Fiesta. While all those vehicles were exciting, he said, nothing compares to Super Duty.

“At Ford Motor Company you don’t turn down the opportunity to lead a pickup program,” he said. “It’s the thrill of my career.”