Vehicle Engineering Manager Stephan Presser has a passion for cars that dates back to his childhood in Heidelberg, Germany, where he could hear the roar of F1 cars racing around the Hockenheim track in the distance.
He knew from a young age that he wanted to be an engineer – the only question was whether he would specialise in planes or automobiles. Fortunately for Ford Motor Company, he chose automobiles.
“I think I always had an affinity for cars and motorbikes,” Presser said. “When I was a young man, the cars I bought were in constant need of attention on the weekend just to keep them running for the next week. So I started to appreciate the details and mechanics of those machines.”
Raised in Heidelberg and Flensburg, Germany, he later earned a Master’s degree in Vehicle Engineering at the Technical University in Berlin.
As Vehicle Engineering Manager for the new Ford Ranger, Presser started by setting attribute targets with his team – ride comfort, handling, off-road performance, fuel economy, aerodynamics, acceleration and top-speed, to name a few. As team leader he ensured that engineering specifications and vehicle targets were met and was ultimately responsible for signing off on the vehicle’s performance.
“Working with and guiding a team of highly qualified experts to deliver the technical side of the programme and ultimately a cohesive product is the rewarding part of this role. It’s amazing what a focused and dedicated team can achieve jointly,” Presser said.
He started with Ford in the Vehicle Dynamics department in 1994, working on the first Ford Focus programme in Cologne, Germany. He then moved to the U.K. to join the Fiesta team, where he also worked on a pickup for South America – his first experience as a team leader.
In 1999 he moved back to Germany to work on a variety of Ford projects. Then, in 2003, Presser was promoted to Vehicle Dynamics Manager for Ford of Australia. He moved to Melbourne, where he resides today. In 2006 he was appointed to his current position as Vehicle Engineering Manager for the Ranger.
“I have had so many more opportunities than I ever thought possible when I joined Ford in 1994,” Presser said. “It has been an interesting and exciting ride so far.”
One of the highlights of Presser’s career was when Ford of Australia won the Wheels Car of the Year award for Territory in 2004.
“We again exceeded expectations for the driving dynamics of an SUV,” he recalled. “It’s great when you bring something to market and it does well – it makes all the efforts worthwhile.”
Presser is confident the new Ranger is also destined to make a big splash in the automobile market.
“The first impression is always visual, and I think the car looks great,” he said. “I think people will be surprised when they get in, with the craftsmanship, drive-oriented cockpit, comfortable seating and extra space.”
Presser believes that when customers drive the new global pickup they will be impressed, “I think they will see and feel the strengths of the truck: our clear target was to deliver the best driving experience out there.”
The German engineer is especially satisfied with how Ford’s global Ranger team managed to work together and pool their varied backgrounds and experience to come up with a true ‘world car’.
“Everybody needs to have patience and endurance and be able to listen to others,” he explained.
Beyond that, Presser says the team managed to accurately project where the industry and customer preferences were headed.
“I am pleased with the way we predicted the future. When you set up an all-new vehicle there is a lot of crystal ball rubbing going on,” he said. “What are the trends? What will the customer expect four or five years from when you start developing the vehicle? I think we have gotten it right in terms of technology, powertrain and transmission line-up, refinement and performance. In hindsight, I am very pleased to see that most of the decisions we made in 2006 are now proving to be the right ones.”
Presser has immersed himself so deeply in his work that during his free time he likes to get away from it all. He no longer spends weekends tinkering with cars in the garage. Instead he prefers travelling with his wife of 15 years and two sons.
Personal insights and fun facts:
Presser finds it amusing that his colleagues don’t seem to think Germans have a sense of humour: “Have they forgotten about people like Michael Schumacher and Boris Becker?”
His biggest holiday treat is to read a book from beginning to end, in just a couple of days.