Friday, June 7, 2013

SDM Alum Designs and Promotes Ford Liftgate - SDM Pulse, Summer 2013

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company
A self-described “car guy,” Vince Mahé, SDM ’06, is a lead design engineer at Ford Motor Co. He refers to himself a “crossover” who has traversed many disparate terrains: growing up as a child in France and relocating to the United States at age 10 where he went “from 0 to 60 mph” to learn a new language and culture; transitioning from volunteering as a firefighter in his late teens to working as an engineer in his late 20s; leading the design of innovative features for the 2013 Ford Escape crossover SUV; and starring in a series of ads in Ford’s “Go Further” campaign in recognition of his contributions designing its innovative liftgate technology.
Hands-free liftgate technology
automatically opens after detecting kicking
motion under the bumper.
The challenge: Lead a design team that would help reinvent the Escape by identifying and incorporating new features that would “wow” customers.

Applying SDM learnings:

•    Leadership: “In SDM’s monthlong January session, we worked in teams specially chosen to represent diversity of thought, expertise, and culture. Members of my SDM group included high-achieving professionals from NASA, Boeing, Ford, and others. We learned that in order to build a strong team, it’s important for all members to slow down and take time to express their feelings openly so that we could all understand each other and work together more effectively. We also learned how to share leadership, follow others, and follow in order to lead.” Mahé applied these techniques when leading his global design team.

•    Innovation: The liftgate’s innovative design consists of two sensors and a control module. The sensors detect the presence of a foot and a shin—as well as the presence of the key—and as soon as the user comes within a meter of the car, it sends a signal to the power liftgate, which opens automatically.

•    Systems thinking: “Coursework in system architecture, systems engineering, and systems design gave me a set of methodologies for dealing with the technical and managerial complexities of requirements analysis, prioritization, design specs, concurrent engineering, testing, safety, and other important elements needed to produce the ‘wow.’ This, in turn, enabled us to troubleshoot any potential problems.”

The results: The Ford Escape was named No. 1 in the affordable compact and affordable crossover SUV categories by US News on its Best Cars website and received numerous other accolades. As lead design engineer, Mahé starred in several commercials for the Ford Escape.  
Video frame courtesy of Ford Motor Company

See Vince at:

Learn more about Vince Mahé and the Ford foot-activated liftgate:

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