Taking on uphill battles

  • 14-May-2012 04:13 EDT
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As Vehicle Engineering Manager for the Ford Escape, Ron Razzano is used to overcoming obstacles, managing hundreds of often-conflicting vehicle attributes. In his free time, Razzano also goes to great lengths to face challenges, often the peaks of some of the world’s top mountain ranges. AEI Assistant Editor Matthew Monaghan recently caught up with Razzano at the 2013 Escape’s media introduction in San Francisco, CA, and asked him to reflect on the program and his passion for hiking:

How did you first develop an interest in hiking and backpacking?

I really found my passion when my boys started getting into Boy Scouts; I started going on everything, and before I knew it I was asked to be a leader. Then I became the high-adventure leader, so now I’m going to higher and higher places. I take the boys down to the Appalachian Trail and we do a different section every spring. Last fall, I began organizing trips with just a few of the guys, and we went to the Sierras and climbed Yosemite and Mount Whitney, and now I’m working on a trip out to Mount Kilimanjaro, which I hope to pull off next year.

Can you describe your role in the Escape program?

As Vehicle Engineering Manager, a big part of what I do is the overall vehicle development, so the vehicle level tuning, ride, handling, NVH, performance, fuel economy, so it’s kind of the attribute development side. The other side of it is I work with all the different component groups when there are conflicts, either packaging issues or a big technical issue. Every different component group will work on its specific component, but then when you put it all together, sometimes it doesn’t perfectly work together, so somebody has to mediate and figure out what’s the best [solution]; it’s basic engineering problem-solving.

Having been involved with Escape since 2005, how have you seen it evolve to its current form?

The current Escape is an outstanding product, but to stay ahead of the competition you can’t get lulled into that sense of, it’s selling so well, let’s just not change a thing; that catches up to you and then you’ll have a real problem. So we set out to develop a much more emotive design. But at the same time, it’s still going to deliver utility, be fun to drive, and be more economical.

With design taking place in Cologne, Germany, and much of the engineering in Dearborn, MI, what was the global effort like for Escape?

What helped me was my background prior to coming to Escape. I actually lived in Europe and did two assignments, one in England and one in Germany, so I know a number of the team members over there. The way we worked was essentially daily communication, and trips as well, but basically through communication—here are our targets, here’s the help we need from you guys, and then just working through it on a daily basis. The six-hour time change is always a bit of a challenge, so my mornings are typically spent in dialogue with European team members working through the execution.

What was that dynamic like during development between design and engineering?

It’s a partnership because the men and women that come up with these design styles are absolutely fabulous and really do have the pulse of what the customer wants, and our job is to work with them to figure out how do we design our bits to work with the winning style. At the same time, you can’t give up an attribute so you work back and forth. We essentially respect what they do from a styling standpoint and figure out how to work collaboratively.

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