Leadership and the Importance of Good Coaching
In March, we announced that Elio Motors had brought in an all-star player when we added Roush as an important member on our supplier team. Well, it’s time to meet the Engineering team’s manager – our new Vice President of Engineering, Jeff Johnston.
Jeff will be responsible for all of the engineering of the full Elio vehicle. He will oversee the validation, safety, and wind tunnel testing, as well as direct program management and manufacturability and the vehicle launch process.
Speaking of Jeff’s appointment, Paul Elio, founder and CEO of Elio Motors, said:
“Jeff Johnston’s personal values of high product quality, exceptional value, and on-time delivery perfectly align with those of Elio Motors, making him a natural choice as our vice president of Engineering. His industry experience and successes with other automakers and top suppliers in the areas of product development and engineering have been stellar and this has prepared him well to help make the Elio an affordable vehicle of enviable quality that’s fun to drive.”
During his career, Jeff has held leadership positions in the areas of Engineering, Interior Launch, Purchasing, Sales, and Program Management. His strong ability and natural talent for managing people has proven immeasurable to the success of his employers.
Jeff has experience with all phases of the automotive product development cycle from Concept to Production, which he gained in a variety of technical, program-management, and vehicle-management positions. He has a keen understanding of corporate cultures from his work with GM, Ford, Nissan, and the global supply chain. During his career, he has led purchasing teams with annual budgets of $1.2 billion dollars and has managed sales accounts that have doubled in revenue with different automakers. His experiences will significantly benefit Elio Motors for executing manufacturing techniques, pricing, costing, tooling, and supplier interactions.
Born to Build
That’s the professional Jeff Johnston. To fully understand his passion for cars and engineering, you have to envision a young Jeff, wrench and screwdriver in hand, trying to figure out how things worked.
“I’ve always been involved in mechanical pursuits – tearing down bikes, fixing lawnmowers, as well as other household items from the time I was young,” said Johnston, of his early interest in product design. “My dad was great with my curiosity and always encouraged it.”
By age 13 he had already bought his first fixer-upper car – a 1948 Dodge – and started working on it with his dad and his future brother-in-law. He still owns and tinkers with the car, despite his busy work responsibilities.
By the time he graduated from high school, Jeff had a plan to work in the automotive industry, so he enrolled in Motech Automotive Education Center, a vocational training school, where he studied mechanical and auto body repair. Working full time during his vocational studies in body shops and prototype shops, however, persuaded him that his destiny awaited in the engineering realm.
He soon enrolled in the mechanical engineering program at Lawrence Technological University and quickly found a technical position working full-time at General Motors to support his schooling. He soon transitioned this into an engineering position, a role in which he continued after graduation.
Over the next 30 years, Jeff worked with a broad range of Top 10 automotive suppliers in occupant restraints, seat belts, and airbag systems, including TRW Automotive, Autoliv, and Takata before joining Elio Motors in March.
Jeff Johnston is Bringing the Elio in For a Win
Although Jeff said that his ultimate goal in coming to Elio Motors is the successful commercial launch of the Elio vehicle, he’s clear that along the way, it’s critical for him that the other targets that have been set are met, including:
- Achieving a targeted base price for the vehicle of $6,800*
- Targeting utilization of 90-percent North American content (very significant to Jeff)
- Delivering fuel economy of up to 84 MPG
- A high level of vehicle safety that exceeds the requirements for the vehicle type
- A superb level of quality, both in the vehicle build and in drivability that the customer loves
As team manager for the Elio Motors Engineering organization, Jeff Johnston’s goal is to not just have a “winning season” by bringing the Elio to commercial production. He also dreams of helping to earn the vehicle championship status for its many fans by ensuring that his players – the suppler base and his internal staff – deliver on all of the vehicle’s “must haves.” Who knows? If things go according to Jeff’s plan, he might be named automotive industry MVP.