Entry #1: Dave Ruggles and Auto Financing
I was really glad that Dave Ruggles came to visit last week because he provided a lot of industry information on auto financing and the process of car rentals and used car sales. The extent that he went into the different processes of auto financing was both fascinating and mind boggling, and I found myself constantly in awe of Ruggles’s knowledge about the different financing processes of the auto industry. I learned that many auto dealers make up for losses with stair step and push back incentives from automakers that make up for the narrowing gap between the MSRP and the amount of money that dealers actually make from auto sales. He knows about such processes from firsthand experience and was able to fill us in on industry transactions from a wizened perspective. I really appreciate that Dave Ruggles visited us and told us about his experiences and the auto industry at large. I can’t wait to apply the knowledge that Ruggles imparted on us in my search for a car after graduation.
Entry #2: Keri Westbrook and Federal-Mogul
Our visit to the Federal-Mogul research facility was an enlightening look into the development of automotive supplies for auto plants to create vehicles for mass consumption. The director of the facility, Keri Westbrook, told us about the massive amount of sales that Federal-Mogul pulls in on an annual basis and told us about the various technologies that the company develops within the Detroit plant that we visited. Federal-Mogul has a strong hold on the piston technologies that fuel innovation across the automotive industry and create stronger and more fuel efficient engines for use on the mass market. We went to see the design teams first who showed us the computer programs that they use to design and implement finished products for use in factories. We got to see the 3D printer that the applications engineers use to print off models to test for use in engines. We also were able to tour the different test facilities for products to be used in the engines. We saw a spark plug test area and a piston testing facility that had sophisticated methods for testing the quickness of movement that the pistons have. We also saw a four-tipped corona spark plug that the company was working on, which was cutting edge technology that amazed everyone who saw it. The entire visit to Federal-Mogul was very enlightening and really showed me how automakers acquire new technologies from third party suppliers. Federal-Mogul is a great company and really showed us a great deal about their operations.
Entry #3: Ford Rouge Plant, the Henry Ford Museum and Ford Exec Hau Thai-Tang
Today we went to the Ford Rouge Plant which was once the largest building in the world but is now totally dedicated to creating pre-purchased cars for sale to the general public. The tour throughout the plant was very interesting. First we went to a sight tower on top of the building which showed us the environmental methods that Ford is using to make its manufacturing more sustainable and adapted to the twenty-first century. Then we toured the production facility itself and were able to see hundreds of workers putting light trucks together for the market. I really enjoyed being able to see the production process of Ford vehicles in action. We then went to the Henry Ford Museum where we were able to see a plethora of vehicles that have historical significance for one reason or another. I was impressed that the museum has both the bus that Rosa Parks was infamously arrested from and the first Japanese vehicle manufactured in the United States, a quaint gray Honda Accord. The museum really made a mark on me because it had a lot of vehicles that have great significance for the American market. After we finished visiting the Henry Ford museum, we went to the Ford executive suites and talked to a major Ford executive, the Vice President of Global Purchasing Hau Thai-Tang. He was able to talk about Ford’s vision very elloquently and really explicated what makes Ford different from its competitors. I was very impressed by his speech and willingness to engage with us as students of the Auto Industry. Today was a great day to see Ford’s place in Detroit and the auto industry as a whole.
Entry #4: The Federal Reserve and UMTRI
Today was a great day to see third party players in the auto industry, Federal Reserve business economists and researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. The economists at the Reserve gave some great insights about the economy of Detroit and the recent challenges that they’ve faced improving the community in gainful ways. He talked about the immense amount of land within the city itself, 140 square miles, and the incredibly cheap prices for land from the creation of urban blight around the city. He showed hope for the city, however, with the new proposals for public transportation and the efforts at venture capital that many private entities are making within the Detroit business ecosystem. The next stop at the University of Michigan Transporation Research Institute was equally as interesting. Researchers told us about the reports that they make that inform the decisions of major players within the auto industry. We saw research on headlights and autonomous vehicles that really impressed me. All in all, today really showed me how much influence third party players have within the auto industry over decisions by major automakers.