After a long drive with 10 gb of Professor Smitka’s personal selection of music that I got to sleep through, we finally made it to Detroit. The change in the car brands seen on the streets was easily noticeable, suddenly our Hyundai Sonata became a minority in between the Fords, GMCs, Chevrolets, Lincolns, Chryslers, and Dodges.
Our first day was divided between the Ford World Headquarters, one of Federal-Mogul’s Technical Centers, and the Michigan University campus. At Ford, we were welcomed by Ellen Hughes-Cromwick (Chief Economist) and Dennis Tosh (Direct Global Trading and Risk Management) who shared some information on the company, their role as economist in their specific positions, and answered our questions. As an economics major this was a great chance to learn about ‘real life’ applications for what one learns in class, which sounds way more interesting than the theory from class.
After Ford we moved on to Federal-Mogul where they were waiting for us with a light lunch. They gave us a quick introduction to the company and its products, and then proceeded to give us a tour around their facilities. As an engineering major I loved the tour; with my 2 years of college I could not completely understand all the technical processes described by a specialist in a specific 4 centimeters sized piece with 15 years in the company, but I could grasp enough to want to keep learning about more engineering stuff at school.
Our visit to Michigan University including their football stadium was interesting since it was my first time at a school that big. We got to celebrate 5 de Mayo at a Mexican restaurant that had settled on the streets where I won a Dos Equis t-shirt. After a long day of being around we headed back to “The Pink Palace”, our hotel in Allen Park.
We started our second day in Detroit with the visit to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (Detroit Branch). We painfully got to see through a blast-proof glass couple billion dollars stacked while some other millions were being shredded. We quickly moved to their meeting room where Dr. Paul Traub gave us a quick overview over the US economy and its recovery from the most recent recession. Finally they concluded their presentation explaining how Detroit ended up bankrupt and what will happen in the next years. After a quick questions and answers session during lunch, we left FED.
After a 20 minute drive, we were back at Ford. This time they had something special for us, we would be having our meeting in the historical room Thunderbird. There was a special feeling while being there keeping in mind that most of the previous CEOs had met at that conference room to discuss the future of the company in the world. Felicia Fields (Group VP Human Resources & Corporate Services) and Mary Anderson (Director of HR Strategy and Organization Development) explained what were Fords goals as a company for the future, and what were the problems they could see in the industry as a result in the lack of students graduating from technical degrees in the US. After a brief questions and answers session, we had to leave the room because Bill Ford needed it for another meeting.
We finished our day at the Tigers game. I cannot say that my first experience at a baseball game was exciting after 3hs of a game I do not quite understand, and it does not have much action, but it was a good time.
Our third day started off with a cold, rainy morning visit to the Heidelberg Project. I am not a big fan of art when it comes to interpreting abstract images or sculptures, but out tour guide kept us involved in what they had there at the open museum by explaining the meaning of some of the pieces. At the end of the tour we had the pleasure to meet Tyree Guyton, the creator and director of the museum. It was pleasure not just because of the fact that he was the person behind all the sculptures, in fact, he did not mention any of them; he had some eye-opening philosophical and life lessons to that even if they do not relate to the topic of the class, I am glad that we went through the cold and rain to hear them.
We left the Heidelberg Project for a quick visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Skipping lunch was probably not one of my best decisions during this trip, but it allowed me to go through almost all the exhibitions, being the murals by Diego Rivera the most impressive, with that plus that it gives them to describe the Auto Industry, the heart of Detroit.
We then moved on to Michigan University Transportation Research Institute, where Dr. Bruce Belzowski guided us through their research facilities that include their driving simulator and the place where they are working on the new V2V signals that will then evolve into automated driving. We finished our visit with a presentation on some forecasts about the Auto Industry for the next decade, involving fuel efficiency, fuel type, and new technologies.
We finished our day with dinner at Vinsetta Garage with Dave Versical, Jim Treece, and J Ferron from Automotive news.
After a quick gas stop and a couple wrong turns on the way back, we made it to the Pink Palace to get some rest.
Our last day we left early in the morning to do the Ford Rouge Tour and The Henry Ford Museum. Due to a crowd of 150 loud elementary school kids we had only 10 minutes to go through the museum, enough time to check out the most important cars.
We quickly moved to our next visit, to BorgWarner, where they gave us a presentation on their business and a brief tour around their facilities, very similar to Federal Mogul but with other products.
We then continued to Brose, where their Director of electronics gave us a brief description of their portfolio and their new devices that are moving to the market.
Our day finished with an alumni reunion in the 35th floor of the Comerica Tower in downtown Detroit.
We left Detroit at 830 am, stopping for lunch at Columbus, OH, for our last meeting of the trip with Toshi Amino and Scott Whitlock from Honda Manufacturing of America. By 930pm we were already back in Lexington.