JIM VONDALE: LEGAL EAGLE’S EYE ON SAFETY HELPED ESTABLISH FORD’S POSITION ON DRIVER DISTRACTION

JIM VONDALE: LEGAL EAGLE’S EYE ON SAFETY HELPED ESTABLISH FORD’S POSITION ON DRIVER DISTRACTION

  • Jim Vondale, director of Ford Motor Company’s Automotive Safety Office, Sustainability, Environmental and Safety Engineering, is responsible for planning, organizing and directing the performance of Ford’s worldwide automotive safety activities
  • Vondale’s legal intuition regarding emerging issues in automotive safety has helped Ford establish a leading, science-based position on driver distraction
  • When he isn’t working on product safety matters, Vondale enjoys spending time with his family, their cottage at Higgins Lake, travel and fine wines

Safety is a strong suit at Ford Motor Company. Just ask Jim Vondale, director of Ford’s Automotive Safety Office. He’ll show you that the evidence is indisputable. Ford has more IIHS Top Safety Pick ratings than any other automaker and more U.S. government five-star ratings than any brand.

Ensuring that Ford Motor Company vehicles are designed with high levels of safety to perform well in the wide range of real-world crashes is just one of Vondale’s primary responsibilities. Another that is top of mind these days is driver distraction. Vondale helped Ford establish its position on driver distraction. Vondale and his team also helped lead efforts at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to develop voluntary guidelines related to driver focus and telematics and to ensure that Ford vehicles are designed to meet those guidelines.

During the development of SYNC® – Ford’s fully integrated in-car voice-activated communications and entertainment system for mobile phones and digital music players –Vondale advocated a study to investigate the differences between hand-held and hands-free operation. The study showed clear advantages to using SYNC’s hands-free, voice-activated controls.

In January, when the National Safety Council asked for a total ban of all mobile phones in vehicles, Vondale took immediate action, helping to lay the groundwork for Ford to educate outside organizations about the science and data related to driver distraction and cell phone usage.

"Ford has devoted considerable attention to this traffic safety issue," Vondale said. "We recognize how important it is for all parties – automakers, lawmakers and consumers alike – to fully understand their roles in reducing the risks."

Vondale, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and his juris doctor degree from the University of Detroit, joined Ford in 1981 as a product litigation attorney in its Office of General Counsel. Before joining the Automotive Safety Office, he spent most of his career at Ford focusing on safety issues related to restraint systems, including air bags.

Since January 2001, Vondale has been responsible for planning, organizing and directing the performance of Ford’s worldwide automotive safety activities. He also serves as a principal spokesperson on product safety matters.

"Product safety has become even more important to vehicle buyers in recent years," Vondale said. "Knowing that a vehicle has a top safety rating and the latest safety features helps people make a more informed purchase decision and it encourages all of us at Ford to continue to enhance vehicle safety."

When he isn’t working with his team on product safety matters, Vondale enjoys spending time with his family, their cottage at Higgins Lake, travel and fine wines.

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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 201,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.

Oct. 5, 2009

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