Interview: Tony Greco, Program Manager, 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor
Tony Greco grew up in the Detroit suburb of Livonia, Michigan, with parents who emigrated from Italy, with Italian being his first language. A fan of math and science as a kid, he decided to pursue chemical engineering at the University of Michigan. Following graduation, he worked for a small biochemical company for 2 1/2 years and then returned to school to earn an MBA from Wayne State University in Detroit. That in hand, he found himself with job offers from Ford, Chrysler, and two other companies. He accepted the offer from Ford.
"I was hired in 2001 and, out of sheer luck, got an opportunity to come to SVT [Special Vehicle Team] to work on the ’05 Ford GT, the modern version of the 1966 Le Mans winner,” he says. “And right after that, we launched the first Shelby Mustang."
Greco then rotated into heavy-duty truck engineering. "I spent a lot of time working on trucks where GCW, GVW, chassis cabs, and pulling really big, heavy stuff is cool. Then I got an opportunity with a business rotation to learn how to make money on this stuff."
After that, he moved back to SVT. "I worked on development of the new Ford GT but always had my eye on the Raptor job,” he relates. “When that opened up, they didn't want me to go because they needed someone on the Ford GT, but I was persistent and eventually was able to take over Raptor. That's easily the best move I've ever made at Ford."
Truck Trend: The F-150 SVT Raptor, introduced for the ’10 model year, was discontinued after ’14.
Tony Greco: That was its last year on the old body. There was no ’15 or ’16, and this ’17 is its evolution onto the all-aluminum body. And when we revealed the entire portfolio at last year's Detroit Auto Show, we transitioned from SVT to Ford Performance, which encompasses European as well as North American products.
TT: What does a program manager do?
TG: I oversee Raptor and work with marketing, purchasing, finance, and vehicle Operations, so I have my hands in a lot of different jars. My highest priority, as it was transitioning out of product development into manufacturing, was making sure that it reached production on time with quality and within budget.
TT: If changes are needed late in the program, that affects both timing and budget.
TG: Yes, and we are absolutely trying to maintain our timing because we know the anticipation for this truck is like nothing we've seen. Execution of this launch with quality is fundamental, and as you get into the launch cadence, there is not a lot to squeeze out of that timeline. We had to integrate into a plant building 75 F-150s an hour without disrupting that production while matching its high level of quality.
TT: What are your leadership priorities?
TG: Come to work every day, put in the effort, and lead by example. I would never ask anyone to do anything I would not do myself, and I try to be accountable for everything I and my team put forward. I tell everyone who works for me that if you give the effort every day, it will be reflected in the product. Transitioning into the plant, I was very mindful that they work in a different environment than Product Development, so I respected everyone and tried to bring forward all the things I've learned. That's how I know to make Raptor great.
TT: What are your product priorities?
TG: We're very performance oriented, so we're maximizing performance. And for this product, that means off-road performance. Every product decision we make must be to enhance off-road performance because I need to keep our leadership miles and miles ahead of the competition. But we also care about the customer who has no interest in going off-road and just wants a really cool truck. We want to give everyone the best, fastest, coolest-looking truck, while also thinking about cool new features that we can bring. We need to balance a lot of different things, including cost and profitability, and I am persistent. If I'm passionate about something, I'm going to fight for it.
TT: What should we know about the ’17 Raptor?
TG: Look at this truck, take in its essence. There's just something about it. I've traveled to auto shows across the country and looked at people's faces when they were staring at it. The three-quarter view is so cool, the front view is incredibly masculine, and it looks wider even though it's only an inch wider than the last generation. It has such a presence, looking like it's ready to go fast over terrain. I feel really good about the exterior execution.
Inside, we've done a lot of work to establish low-, medium- and high-series trucks, and making sure that when you're inside it, you feel like you're in something very special and performance oriented, not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill truck. We've added a lot of color, material, and technology into the cluster and a lot of camera technology because of its off-road capability. We've also developed technology in the cluster where, at the touch of a fingertip, you can tell it what terrain you're on, and it matches driving dynamics to that terrain.
The EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6 makes a lot of power, more than the V-8 in the last generation. I can tell you that I've driven this truck, and it is scary, scary fast and fun to drive. With more power and torque, but more efficiency from the 10-speed transmission, in a shell that is 500 pounds lighter than the outgoing truck, that is a good equation for fun as well as efficiency. Two other cool things are true dual exhausts, so it sounds really good, and paddle shifters. If you're rockcrawling and need to keep your eyes on where you're going, you don't need to use the floor shift anymore. Those paddle shifters are right there at your fingertips.
We live it and breathe it every day, and I'm pretty passionate about it. It has taken a lot of time to execute, but there's nothing in this company I would rather be working on.