TODD HOEVENER: FROM DESERT FLOOR TO MOUNTAIN PEAKS, PROVING FORD EXPLORER CAPABILITY, EFFICIENCY
Todd Hoevener, Vehicle Engineering Manager, 2011 Ford Explorer
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Casual observers – from children playing in the sandbox to SUV and outdoor enthusiasts – could easily believe that Todd Hoevener has the best job at Ford Motor Company, if not the world.
Vehicle Engineering Manager for the 2011 Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle, Hoevener has scaled a pass above the tree line near Ouray in Colorado, slogged through deep desert sand in Borrego Springs in California, spun donuts in the muddy red clay of Alabama, and accumulated countless miles at Ford’s proving ground facilities in both Michigan and Arizona to create one of the most advanced traction systems in the world.
"In our Explorer testing, my experience with the terrain management system in sand mode at the Glamis Dunes really showed how the vehicle delivers on capability," Hoevener said. "In very deep sand – in normal mode – the prototype bogged down, unable to continue. I switched to sand mode, and the next thing you know the vehicle was able to navigate the deep sand."
All of these Explorer milestones are logged in pursuit of developing and delivering a high-quality, capable, responsive and fuel-efficient sport utility vehicle for the 21st century.
"We set up a red clay mud bog on private property in Alabama," said Hoevener. "Negotiating slippery stuff helped us to fine-tune the 4WD mud mode for traction and driver control."
Just another day in the office?
"The vehicle engineering manager serves as the chief technical officer for the product program," said Hoevener. "My job is to ‘deliver’ the attributes of the vehicle that the customer notices, like fuel economy, ride quality and capability – on any road, anytime, anywhere – as well as powertrain and dynamic responsiveness."
Hoevener’s role is to develop these Explorer characteristics, ensuring that all individual elements of the four-wheel-drive vehicle come together seamlessly, delivering on the criteria established at program inception.
"I’ve been on previous Explorer programs and have a real affinity for the SUV segment," Hoevener said. "Our new Explorer is going to change consumer perceptions of what an SUV can be. The user-friendly and accessible capabilities of the intelligent 4WD terrain management system combined with significantly improved performance, handling and fuel economy will help our customers to more efficiently and confidently use their Explorers just as they have before."
Even prior to his recent Explorer development travels, working at Ford has always been an adventure for the affable, perpetually smiling Hoevener.
"My first job was testing heavy-duty diesel engines for Ford New Holland," he said. "We used then-new environmental chambers to replicate use under varying conditions. This was exciting stuff for someone who grew up on a farm, surrounded by agricultural machinery."
Within Ford, Hoevener then worked on several Ford, Lincoln and Mercury car lines, E-Series vans and both midsize and large SUVs.
A native of Columbus, Ind., he attended Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, earning a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering. After starting at Ford immediately after his undergraduate program, Hoevener went on to achieve a master’s degree in industrial and systems engineering and an MBA, both from the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
How does Hoevener keep the Explorer program on track while attending numerous meetings, driving across the desert floor, inching down an eroded washout or driving over a mountain pass above the tree line?
"Within the team and across the company, it starts and ends with good communication," said Hoevener. "With transparency and openness, the team has rarely been faced with a surprise. This allows us to address any conceivable issues earlier in the development process, saving both time and resources and enabling us to deliver a high-quality sport utility vehicle that exceeds customer expectations."
Hoevener’s next adventure?
"With Explorer ready to deliver best-in-class fuel efficiency and customer-empowering capabilities, among its many other attributes, I’m off to Australia to develop a new SUV for Asia Pacific region markets," Hoevener said. "This is going to be fun."
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
- Todd grew up on a farm, surrounded by agricultural implements and vehicles, an ideal environment for a mechanically inclined young man
- Todd’s last name is pronounced "Hayv-ner"
- Married with two growing sons, Todd spends off-hours coaching their sports teams
- A recent Explorer engineering trip took Todd over the 13,114-foot Imogene Pass, thought to be the highest altitude ever reached by vehicle for a Ford development team
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 176,000 employees and about 80 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and, until its sale, Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.
May 3, 2010