Two of the top engineers in the US auto industry will both be retiring on April 1. Ford announced this morning that group vice president for global product development Derrick Kuzak will be leaving after 34 years with the company. While CEO Alan Mulally has received much of the public credit for turning around Ford in the last five years, in the auto industry a plan is only as good as the products that roll off the assembly line.
Kuzak is a soft spoken engineer that doesn't have the flash of Bob Lutz but he certainly has the product development chops and understands where the investment needs to go create best in class vehicles. Having spent a number of years at Ford of Europe he was familiar with the products there and what the market was looking for and when Mulally brought him back to Dearborn to lead the ONE Ford effort, he knew exactly what to do. He assembled a great team and like Steve Jobs at Apple he saw what needed to be cut and what should go forward. Hopefully the team he assembled will continue to execute the plan in the coming years.
Just a couple of weeks earlier, General Motors announced that chief technical officer Tom Stephens is also leaving. Like Kuzak, Stephens wasn't typically the public facing voice of GM, but he spent his entire 43 year career in the engineering ranks at GM. After Lutz retired in 2009, Stephens succeeded him as vice chairman responsible for global product development before moving into the new role of CTO a year ago.
Both men helped lead their teams through tumultuous times in the industry and they will be missed. Let's hope their successors have the same kind of vision about where to go in the next decade.
Check out Kuzak talking about global product development and the new 2013 Ford Fusion in the video.
#derrickkuzak #tomstephens #ford #2013fordfusion #fordfusionstory #gm #generalmotors #engineering
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