Dianne Craig, President & CEO of Ford Motor Company of Canada, discusses the Future of Automotive in J. W. Hodgins Memorial Lecture
February 27, 2014
Faculty of Engineering
On February 25, members of the McMaster Engineering community gathered in Celebration Hall for a special visit from Dianne Craig, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company of Canada. As the guest speaker for the 30th annual J. W. Hodgins Memorial Lecture, Craig shared her perspective on the challenges and opportunities within the automotive industry.
Craig’s career with the Ford Motor Company began in 1996 with a marketing position, and over the years, she moved up through the ranks and was appointed as president and CEO of Ford Motor Company of Canada in November 2011.
Her first reference in the presentation was to a quote by Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, which says, “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”
Ford has weathered many ups and downs in its century-long journey. Over the past 10 years, Craig pointed out, there has been unprecedented change in the automotive industry. Ford itself has experienced great change from running deficits in 2001, to a restructuring beginning in 2006 and finishing 2012 with an $8.6 billion profit. Craig attributed much of the success in Ford’s turnaround to their current President and CEO, an American engineer named Alan Mulally.
“If I have learned one thing since I started at Ford, it is the impact one person can have on a company,” said Craig.
Mulally created a plan called “ONE Ford”, which helped the company overcome the challenges of the 2008 recession. The plan focused on four major business components: aggressive restructuring, accelerated product development, finding financing for the plan and collaborative efforts. Ford reinforced the company’s brand message, adopting the apt slogan of “Go Further” to communicate its four pillars of quality, smart technologies, safety and a commitment to manufacturing using ‘green friendly’ values.
“At the end of the day, it’s about innovation,” stated Craig. Currently, Ford Motor Company works to use more sustainable materials, high-quality, more affordable vehicles, and more efficient manufacturing processes. For example, 22 plastic bottles are used in every vehicle, recycled into special yarn for seating and other interior vehicle materials.
Craig touched on what the future might hold for automotive. She firmly recommended that manufacturers listen carefully to customers to keep the products relevant and to meet their needs.
Photo: Eric Harrison
“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a vision, sticking to that plan, encouraging risk taking in innovative processes and really listening to your customers,” said Craig, suggesting this formula for success cannot fail.
In terms of business growth and prosperity, Craig stressed a need for strong partnerships with the government to improve infrastructure for electric vehicles, a “manufacturing renaissance” moving towards building where you sell (such as the $700 million expansion to the Oakville Ford Plant) and “light-weighting” (a process of reducing the weight of vehicles to increase fuel efficiency) which will occur with the aid of research partnerships like the one with McMaster.
In 2011, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Ford Motor Company and McMaster University joined to collaborate and build the McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC) at McMaster Innovation Park. The goal is to share resources between industry and academia to work towards better solutions in hybrid and electrical powertrain systems.
In his introductory welcome for Dianne Craig, Dr. Saeid Habibi, NSERC and Ford Canada Industrial Research Chair in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Powertrain Diagnostics, expressed gratitude, “Ford’s support has been critical to the establishment of the McMaster Automotive Resource Centre Facilities.”
And, in closing, Dr. Patrick Deane, president of McMaster concluded, “Creativity and imagination in innovation is powerfully important and critical to success not only in business but in all other things we do.”
The J. W. Hodgins Memorial Lecture series is an annual lecture, established in 1983, as a memorial to McMaster’s first dean of engineering. Annually, a pre-eminent guest is invited to share insights into how scientific and technological advances are reshaping society.