Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: The Hills of North Georgia,USA
US:Steering Ford's designs
Steering Ford's designs
Automaker's future rests on Schiavone's innovations
BY SARAH A. WEBSTER
DETROIT FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
Title: Design director -- trucks, SUVs and crossovers.
• 2005-06 -- Design director, Ford, Lincoln Mercury cars
• Sept. 2002-Feb. 2005 -- Design director, trucks and SUVs
• Jan. 2001-Sept. 2002 -- Design director
• Jan. 1999-Dec. 2000 -- Chief designer
• 1996-Dec. 1998 -- Design manager
• Nov. 1993-Nov. 1996 -- Design manager, Europe
• 1990-93 -- Design manager, advanced studio
Education: College for Creative Studies, 1988 graduate.
Key vehicles: The 1994 Ford Mustang, 2000 Ford Focus, 2004 Ford F-150, redesign of the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator and Blackwood. Concepts: 2001 Ford F-150 Lightning Rod, 2002 Mighty F-350 TONKA, 2006 Ford F-250 Super Chief.
Family: Wife, Amanda, son Isaac, 4
What he drives: Lincoln Navigator. Wife drives a Land Rover LR3.
The future of Ford Motor Co.'s truck leadership -- crucial to rescuing the struggling Dearborn-based automaker -- is squarely in the slender freckled hands of Pat Schiavone.
At first glance, Schiavone's rainbow-colored shirts, slim suits and funky dark-rimmed glasses aren't what you'd expect from the design director for Ford's most profitable "Built Ford Tough" trucks.
But the slick, sophisticated persona belies the resilient rebel behind the new Super Duty pickups, which are Ford's heavy-duty version of the F-Series pickup. The overhauled lineup, which features the first ever F-450 pickup, will be unveiled today at the Texas State Fair in Dallas.
At heart, Schiavone is really a good ol' Midwestern boy. He developed a healthy wild streak young in life -- drifting in and out of college while partying throughout his 20s -- and he's never let that spirit die. It's helped him father some of Ford's most aggressive truck designs in recent times: the 2004 F-150 and concepts such as the F-150 Lightning Rod, the Mighty F-350 TONKA and the truck that stole this year's Detroit auto show: the locomotive-inspired Ford F-250 Super Chief.
"I live life to the fullest -- I did then, and I do now," Schiavone said.
That's a good thing for Ford, too.
Ford's financial performance is heavily dependent on pickups and the new Super Duty models, which make up 40% of all F-Series sales, will need all the spunk they can get as they enter a head-to-head battle with General Motors Corp.'s long-awaited new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD, which also will be unveiled at the Texas event today.
In the past, the Super Duty models have gone by names such as the F-250 and F-350, which denote increased vehicle weight and capability for the contractors, farmers, ranchers and others who tow fifth wheels, horse trailers, boats and beds full of wood, rocks or tools.
But with the addition of the F-450 pickup today, GM is doing battle against a more varied squad of Ford soldiers than ever before. The Super Duty lineup now will include the F-250, F-350 and F-450 pickups, as well as the F-350, F-450 and F-550 chassis cabs. Those more rudimentary vehicles usually are purchased for commercial use and converted after purchase into dump trucks and similar work vehicles.
Pete Reyes, the chief engineer for the Super Duty, who has worked on Ford's heavy-duty trucks for 13 years, said customers have been asking for that F-450 pickup. In the past, customers had to get the chassis cab and then pay extra to get it retrofitted. Now, Reyes said, they finally can get it "from the factory."
Ford's attempt to meet the growing needs and tastes of consumers, who are hauling heavier things than ever before, is critical as the automaker tries to combat sliding sales of the profitable F-Series line.
The F-Series has been the best-selling pickup for the past 29 years, partly because of its number of derivatives. And Ford would like to hit the 30-year mark this year.
Through August, however, F-Series sales are down 12.7% compared with the same period a year ago. That's better than the overall performance for the full-size pickup market, which is off 13.7%. So, Ford's share of the segment is still strong, at 36.1%, and the automaker is still in a good spot to hit its 30-year target.
Still, the falloff in pickup sales has been incredibly painful to the truck-dependent Ford. In fact, executives say the decline in pickup sales is ultimately what forced them to revamp the Way Forward turnaround plan, which was first unveiled in January. The plan now calls for cutting 44,000 jobs through 2008 and closing 16 plants through 2012, among other actions.
"This is Ford's great hope," Maryann Keller, a veteran auto analyst, said of the new Super Duty. "They cannot afford to lose share in pickups."
So, with such high stakes, what do Schiavone and his team have in store with the new Super Duty?
Aside from the new F-450, there's a more powerful 6.4-liter Power Stroke diesel engine, an all-new interior and exterior, as well as innovative features never seen before. Those include two industry firsts: a step that stows away between the panels of the tailgate to ease entry into the pickup bed and power-telescoping power-folding side mirrors to help drivers extend their mirrors out up to 2 3/4 inches from the vehicle, to help drivers see around ever-larger trailers.
As for the bolder new design, the "Super Duty" name gets big play inside and out, as Ford continues elevating the heavy-duty brand to a lofty place all its own. The name is embossed, in a bold font and in all capital letters, into a bigger, bolder new chrome grille. It's imprinted on the glove box. And in the spirit of the Ford pickups of the past, the brand name is also stamped into the tailgate.
Matt Delorenzo, Detroit editor of Road & Track magazine, said Schiavone's styling and the Super Duty are right for the times.
Schiavone, he said, has a knack for doing "great aggressive trucks that stand out" at a time when the appetite for bolder designs is growing. Delorenzo says that could give the new F-Series model an advantage over GM's pickup designs, which he said always have been more conservative.
"They've gone the way of not being so in your face," he said of GM. "As far as getting more aggressive, I think Ford's got it right."
Doodler to designer
Bold and aggressive is not necessarily what you would expect from the son of a lawyer and teacher, who grew up as a middle child in the rural suburbs of Akron, Ohio.
But Schiavone is scrappier than his looks or his quick history might suggest.
The young Schiavone struggled his entire way through school, especially in math.
To escape, Schiavone diverted his attention to more exciting adventures: customizing and drag racing hot rods, such as his 1968 Plymouth Road Runner, tearing pickups through lawns with his friends, drawing cars and partying.
At Walsh Jesuit High School, Schiavone did his senior project on what seemed a far-flung notion: designing cars.
After graduation in 1976, he enrolled at Akron University as a pre-law major, where Schiavone admits, "I did terrible."
He dropped out three times before he ended up briefly driving a truck for a chemical company.
"I was more interested in having a fulfilled life," Schiavone explained.
All the while, his parents kept pushing him to return to school.
"Just take a class, just take a class," he recalled them saying. Finally, Schiavone enrolled in a drawing class and read a story in Fortune magazine about an automotive designer at the time, J Mays, who is now the head designer at Ford. When Schiavone realized he didn't need to know how to do math to design cars -- a fear that had held him back -- Schiavone decided to give it a shot.
By the time he enrolled at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, he was 26.
Schiavone did an internship at GM in 1986, and when he graduated two years later, he officially started his career at Ford, drawn to then-cool new cars like the Ford Probe.
But the delay proved to be a blessing in disguise.
"I was a lot more focused," he said. "This is what I wanted to do and there was no doubt about it."
More mature than his peer graduates, he was also a bit more practical. While many designers get wrapped up in the abstract nature of their art, Schiavone took a more practical approach, setting out to design vehicles for production.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....