Interview: Jackie Marshall DiMarco, Ford chief engineer, F-150 and Expedition
Ford F-150 and Expedition chief engineer Jackie Marshall DiMarco grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and went to Ohio State University for a degree in mechanical engineering. Not originally an auto enthusiast, she caught the bug by getting involved with OSU's Formula Electric battery-powered race-car program. "It was my first hands-on experience, and I really had a good time with it," she says. "We had done projects in labs, but nothing really tangible that you could end up driving at the end of the day."
Then, while continuing through a master's degree program at Ohio State, she worked with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on crash-test dummy testing. Her professional career began at Ford as a college graduate in training. "I was sponsored by Powertrain, but worked in vehicle development and did some design and planning. During those two years, I found that I really liked development work. I liked being in vehicles."
TT: After seven years in Powertrain, you were promoted to Mustang program manager.
JD: I had worked on Mustang calibration, so had some Mustang experience. My first day on the job, we were already talking about what the 2010 Mustang would be."
TT: What led you to trucks?
JD: Mustangs and trucks have a lot in common because of the passion around them. My husband and I have owned four F-150s in the last 15 years, so I think I understand that customer base very well. I also understand that trucks have a very broad customer base, from people who use them as tools for work to those who take them to nice dinners and events."
TT: All truckmakers want their trucks to be the best in every way, from towing and hauling to performance and fuel economy. How do you compete with that?
JD: It starts with standing in the customer's shoes and looking at how they are going to use their trucks and what they want. When we add new technologies, we really try to adapt them to what the truck customers want. For example, we've had MyFord Touch in a lot of vehicles, but for the 2013 truck application, we put a lot of thought into how customers will use it. We completely redid the center stack so you can do almost everything with voice commands, or on the touch screen, or with very sturdy knobs and buttons.
TT: How do you achieve the best balance of performance and fuel efficiency?
JD: When I came in, we were a few months away from launching the EcoBoost engine. It's beautiful for torque, the performance feels fantastic, yet it offers excellent fuel economy. We had to educate truck customers to understand that they don't really need a big V-8 because there is a better technology that can meet all their needs.
TT: But some customers still insist on a V-8 for one reason or another.
JD: That is why we offer four different engines. We're trying to hit all their needs with everything from a 3.7-liter V-6 for someone who is not hauling heavy loads, to the 5.0-liter V-8, a traditional V-8 that's very respectable for performance and towing and not bad for fuel economy, to the EcoBoost for max towing with fuel economy to the 6.2-liter V-8 for enthusiasts.
TT: Looking ahead at Corporate Average Fuel Economy increases of 4-plus percent a year into the foreseeable future, how do accomplish do that, especially with trucks?
JD: I'll just say that we look at everything from every angle and try to make improvements large and small, because a lot of small improvements add up to big gains. You look at your aero, at making your engines more efficient, at the potential for "light-weighting" across the entire vehicle -- you have to attack it holistically. There is not a silver bullet, just a lot of hard chipping away at everything that's preventing you from achieving better fuel economy.
In every issue, Truck Trend conducts interviews with people involved in designing, building, and equipping current and future trucks. Have any suggestions for interviews you'd like to see? Email us at email@example.com--Ed.