Davis helps write second act for Ford automotive icon
Friday, September 18th, 2009
By Chris Mead
When the 2010 Ford Taurus was introduced earlier this year in a blaze of favorable publicity, the automotive press rolled out all of its superlatives.
“It may prove to be the best sedan the company has ever produced,” declared Autoweek magazine.
“A vehicle you can live with every day, that happens to have a secret under the hood,” pronounced the editors of Esquire magazine in naming the 2010 Taurus SHO model as its inaugural Car of the Year.
Those words are music to the ears of Frank Davis, BSME’84. As executive director of North American Product Programs for Ford Motor Co., Davis is responsible for the product development and launches for the automaker’s entire North American portfolio.
Over the past couple of years, he has spearheaded the launches of the 2009 Lincoln MKS, the Ford Flex, the Ford F-150 pickup, the 2010 Ford Fusion and Fusion Hybrid, the Mercury Milan and Milan Hybrid, the new Mustang, and the fully redesigned 2010 Ford Taurus.
Davis is proud of the entire lineup but he takes particular pride in the reintroduction and reinvigoration of the iconic Taurus nameplate. “Customers told us they want style, convenience, performance, and fuel economy,” he explained. “We’re sure the new Taurus will exceed their expectations.”
If the rave reviews are any indication, his prediction will prove correct.
“We had three main criteria in selecting the Esquire Car of the Year,” says David Granger, editor-in-chief. “The vehicle needed to be a pleasure to drive and be capable of shortening your breath when you slam down the pedal. It needed to be gorgeous and aggressive, capable of eliciting stares and gawks. And it needed to be attainable — a vehicle that most men actually can buy and drive. The new Taurus SHO nailed all of these parameters.”
Competing with some of the best luxury sedans in the industry, Taurus SHO was the editors’ unanimous choice
The original Taurus was an immediate sensation when it debuted for the 1986 model year. Coincidentally, its development was led by Lewis C. Veraldi, BSME’68, who led Ford’s large car development prior to his death in 1990. In the words of Autoweek, it “set the mark for American full-size sedans for a couple of decades.” More than 7 million Tauruses have been sold since then, and an estimated 4 million remain on the road.
But the 2010 Taurus that began rolling into dealer showrooms this summer is notably different from its famous antecedent. It has been re-envisioned with a more sculpted, powerful, and sporty design, and it also earned a “Top Safety Pick” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety based on its performance testing.
A native of the Detroit area, Davis started his career at Ford in 1984, shortly after graduation, in heavy truck development. Over the years, he contributed to power train programs, heavy trucks, compact pickups, and Ford’s best-selling line of F-Series full-size pickups.
“My first 22 years with Ford were all about putting the ‘Built Ford Tough’ into our market-leading line of trucks and commercial vehicles,” Davis recalled.
He served as chief nameplate engineer for the Super Duty truck lines and the F-150 lineup of pickup trucks before advancing to vehicle programs director for pickup trucks and commercial vehicles. In 2004, Frank was named an Automotive News “All-Star” for his leadership and product development savvy.
Building on that success, Davis was promoted to vehicle programs director for all body-on-frame products, with responsibility for development and launch of all F-Series trucks and Expedition/Navigator full-size SUV product lines.
When he assumed his present role in the fall of 2007, Frank and his team were given the daunting task of reinvigorating the Taurus nameplate. The team was not only empowered to bring the designer’s vision to life with the latest technology, but also to deliver the vehicle for the 2010 model year – a full 12 months ahead of schedule.
Davis attributes his success at Ford in large measure to his education at Lawrence Tech.
“My time at Lawrence Tech made me who I am today and taught me many life lessons such as my work ethic, which includes always outworking your competitors and developing real ‘why buys’ for your customers to distinguish yourself from your competition,” Davis said. “Another important life lesson I learned was the value of teamwork through my senior project with Professor George Schneider.”
His favorite courses were in chemistry with Professor Jerry Crist. “He really inspired us to go above and beyond and look at education as a life’s learning,” he said.
“Finally, I owe my career to Lawrence Tech since I was recruited by Tom Baughman, my first manager at Ford, right out of the recruiting center. It was the best decision of my life,” Davis said.