We left for Detroit at 8:30 a.m. It had been a long drive. We stopped in a small town Henrietta in Ohio and had lunch there in a microbrewery. Throughout the road trip we had been enjoying Prof. Smitka’s music, and sleeping. We arrived in Michigan around 7:30 p.m. and checked in “pink palace.” Then we went straight to a Lebanese restaurant that serves great kebab.
On the first day we visited the famous Ford Motor world headquarters, tier-1 automotive supplier Federal-Mogul, as well as University of Michigan.
(the front gate of Ford Motor HQ)
In the morning we went to the Ford HQ and met with Ford’s chief economist Ellen Hughes-Cromwick and the director of global trading and automotive risk management Dennis Tosh. A short Q&A based discussion was followed by their introduction of their occupations. I was really excited when I heard they are looking for economics and mathematics majors as employees. Looking at Dr. Hughes-Cromwick I was glad that economists can have a great career in the auto industry sector.
Federal-Mogul in Ann Arbor was our second stop. After having lunch there, we were given a presentation by Keri Westbrook, the director of product technology. I had a quick grasp of Fed-Mogul’s main products and how competitive it is in the market. We then went on a tour within the company. Most of the information was extremely technical, but I still picked up an important information that the spark plug that is being tested will be able to reduce up to 20 mpg on fuel economy on vehicles and it will face the public within 5 years.
(The fattest squirrel I have ever seen, founded on campus of University of Michigan)
After that, we went to University of Michigan to meet Professor Smitka’s brother Curt Smitka, director of Budget and Administration. Mr. Smitka led us around the campus and it was my first time standing in the classroom of a university. I could really appreciate how different the learning environments are between U of Michigan and WLU. We then separated for dinner and returned to the hotel.
We visited Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Detroit Branch, the Ford HQ, and most importantly, a Tigers game.
(The Thunderbird Room inside Ford HQ)
The Fed is a huge fortress with top-notch security. We visited the vault and saw humongous amount of money. Then we met Dr. Paul Traub, the head of the branch, and Mr. Martin LaVelle, the senior analyst of the branch introduced us to the facility. What interested me the most was Mr. LaVelle’s opinion on the Detroit bankruptcy and the future of Detroit.
Then we went back to the Ford HQ after lunch. This time, however, we got to get to the top floor of the building and sat in the famous Thunderbird Room. It was amazing knowing that we were sitting in the room that the leaders of Ford made their important decisions. We met with Felicia Fields, the VP Human Resources and Corporate Services, and Mary Anderson, the directior of Human Resources Strategy and Organization Development. They explained the goals of the company and the One Ford idea. They also informed us what they are looking for in terms of recruiting college undergraduates. Ms. Fields mentioned an interesting point during the meeting, that students with STEM degress are, and always be in great demands in US, which made me feel lucky that I am a math major.
(On our way to the Tiger’s Stadium)
(Tigers vs. Astros)
We went to the Tigers game at 19:00. It was a great game (Tigers 11:4 Astros) and I really had a great time.
On Wednesday, we visited the Heidelberg Project, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
(The Heidelberg Project art piece)
(Another Heidelberg Project art)
We went to the Heidelberg Project in the morning. It wasn’t a good day, but the statues and sculptures were fascinating. We also met the creator of the entire project, Tyree Guyton. He is an inspiring figure and clearly loves his city and his life.
(Diego Rivera’s famous Detroit Industry Mural)
We visited DIA for a very short amount of time. However, I still managed to see the famous mural by Diego Rivera and took some time to appreciate it. I also took a quick tour around the museums and saw some great contemporary art pieces.
(Simulated driving test in UMTRI)
We spent most of our time in University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute(UMTRI). Dr. Bruce Belzowski and his staff introduced us to some projects they are working on to improve the safety and communication on the road. An interesting idea was raised about Vehicle to Vehicle and Vehicle to Pedestrian communication, which makes the future of fully-automated vehicles very promising.
We went to dinner at Vinsetta Garage with three automotive staff J Ferron, Jim Treece, and Dave Versical. It was one of the best dinner during the trip and I really learned a lot talking to these people.
We went to the Ford Rouge Tour and the Henry Ford Museum in the early morning. The streamline production plant was so fast and efficient, no wonder Ford had been the best in the industry for such a long time. We then went back to the museum. I found a lot of prototypes and famous vehicles in the history of auto industry.
(The Green Roof of Ford Rouge Plant)
In the afternoon, we went to visit BorgWarner. They gave us a warm welcome and an introduction to their technology and research lab. It was really similar to the Federal-Mogul visit. We also went to Brose, a German supplier. The director of electronics gave us a brief introduction on their sensor-based technology all over a vehicle. After that, we went to an alumni reunion with the Detroit chapter of W&L alumni on the 35th floor of Comerica Tower in Detroit. The head of Clark Hill shared his insight on the auto industry.
It’s time. We left the hotel at 9:00 in the morning. We stopped at Columbus, OH for a lunch with two gentlemen from Honda. Then we went on to the trip back in Lexington. Although I might not revisit Detroit very soon, it had been a great week and I really learned a lot within a week.