An engineering star at Ford who took a short detour to launch Uber’s self-driving program in Pittsburgh is back at Ford in a newly created position: vice president, autonomous vehicles and electrification. The automaker made the announcement on Thursday, along with news of several other changes at the top.
Sherif Marakby joined Ford as an electrical engineer in 1990, and took on increasing responsibility in roles ranging from having full responsibility of regional vehicles’ powertrain and lineup to vehicle line director of compact vehicles, including Ford Escape, Focus and C-Max. During his tenure as vehicle line director, he was responsible for engineering the powertrains in each region those vehicles were available: North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. It was a product development position involving both internal combustion and hybrid powertrains.
Marakby also worked in plant vehicle teams for several years, helping with the launch of the vehicles, quality improvements and financial efficiencies at St. Thomas Assembly Plant and Oakville Assembly Plant, both in Canada.
With a master’s degree in electronics engineering from University of Maryland College Park, and an MBA from the University of Michigan, Marakby also led the Ford team delivering the Ford Fusion hybrid powertrain in 2011.
Marakby left Ford for Uber in April 2016 to helm its manufacturer strategy and integration efforts as vice president of its global vehicle programs, but stayed only a year. In recent months, Uber has faced allegations of a culture of sexual harassment in its offices and a series of lawsuits, including one from Google’s Waymo that Uber’s head of artificial intelligence stole proprietary information when he left Waymo for Uber.
On Monday, Ford named a new CEO, Jim Hackett. Thursday's announcement included news that Raj Nair, Ford’s CTO and executive vice president of product development will lead Ford’s North American operations.
Ken Washington, a 2014 Ford hire who was formerly head of R&D at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, will replace Nair as CTO of Ford and continue in his role as vice president of research and advanced engineering.
Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s group vice president of global purchasing, will have an expanded role as executive vice president, product development and purchasing. Both purchasing and product development will now report to Thai-Tang. Thai-Tang spent 25 years in engineering and product development at Ford before he became vp of purchasing.
In an interview with IndustryWeek last year, Thai-Tang said that from working on both the product development and purchasing sides, he’s learned that it’s best to engage suppliers very early in the design process: “Talk with them about what is the customer problem that we’re trying to solve, and how do we collaborate to get to the best design cost and ensure that they make a fair margin. Then we’re actually leveraging their knowledge, their expertise, and learning from their best practices based on all the customers they serve.
“It’s not doing it all ourselves and giving them a drawing and saying, ‘How much for this part?’ It’s saying, ‘This is a problem I’m trying to solve. How would you guys go about doing it, and how would we work together to get the best value?’”