Moms that made the Malibu both memorable and marketable.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- May 4, 2012
The “Fantastic Four” are Chevrolet Malibu mom engineers (L to R) Tracy Mack-Askew, Suzanne Cody, Kara Gordon and Julie Kleinert.
Oh how I love cool PRs like this
A blue-haired, roller derby jammer; a crash expert; an organic gardener with specially trained hearing skills, and a Harvard master’s degree candidate with a patent for lighting technology all have more in common than you might think.
In addition to being engineers and moms, they all bring expertise and unique perspectives that make the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu fuel-efficient, safe, extremely quiet and available for purchase today.
Malibu moms Suzanne Cody, Julie Kleinert, Kara Gordon and Tracy Mack-Askew also help demonstrate the important role women and mothers play in engineering today’s family vehicles.
The Malibu is Chevrolet’s first global midsize sedan, and while these moms are based in Detroit, the Malibu work will be felt from Birmingham to Bulgaria, Ann Arbor to Austria and from St. Clair Shores to Seoul, Shanghai and beyond.
Kara Gordon the Malibu’s lead acoustic noise engineer and mother of two active young boys:
“People spend a lot of time in their vehicles and it’s really important for me to spend that time with my kids in a positive way. If your car isn’t quiet, you can’t hear how their day went.”
Involving more engineer moms in vehicle development is happening as women continue to take a bigger stake in the market. According to GM, Women purchase greater than 50 percent of all cars sold in the United States, and take part in 80 percent of all family car buying decisions, according to traditional industry statistics.
Yet according to the American Society of Engineering Education, the percentage of undergraduate engineering degrees going to women in 2009 was 17.8 percent, a 15-year-low.
Recognizing this need, GM and the GM Foundation support several programs aimed at encouraging women to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects, including high school robotics programs and college scholarships.
Women engineers can provide a unique perspective to the design and engineering process. For example, women are generally smaller than men, so ergonomic needs are different. They also have a heightened awareness of safety, and tend to be more sensitive to the needs of family.
A miscue we discovered in the 2012 Ford Focus last year was surely not mommy proofed. That being a coat hanger hook that was more like a protrusion for you to hang your dry cleaning on one minute and then watch them fall off a minute later.
Women add a necessary element to enhance a vehicle's appeal and the entire development process benefits from that added dimension and I could not agree more.
The Fantastic Four female engineers and moms behind the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu
Suzanne “Suzy” Cody
, aerodynamics engineer – We met this over achiever is a story from last year entitled: “2013 Malibu Aerodynamicist's Are Billy Bob Bad @$$’es!
Cody is quite literally a rocket scientist with a degree in aerospace engineering. Known for her “GM blue” hair highlights, she is also a force to be reckoned with in the wind tunnel and on the roller derby track.
A mother of two young boys, she has been responsible for the aerodynamic performance of the new Malibu, and her work has resulted in a vehicle with a superior wind drag rating – close to that of the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle – which means increased gas savings for Malibu drivers. In fact, aerodynamic improvements on the new Malibu provide up to 2.5 mpg more on the highway.
“I’m a single mom, and every dollar I spend on gasoline is a dollar I’m not investing in my boys’ futures so this is personal to me.”
Her knowledge of wind drag also helps her on the Bath City Roller Girls roller derby team, where fans know her as Shovey Camaro. Cody is also a passionate leader of a local moms club that helps support local charities.
, a mother of four and grandmother of two is the GM child safety technical lead responsible for child occupant protection. Kleinert’s job is to evaluate and develop the safety performance requirements for the vehicle restraint systems that will protect children who ride in the Malibu and other GM vehicles.
“Knowing that the work I do helps protect other people’s children is very rewarding. I love to be able to tell people what I do, and how much work goes into the safety of every GM vehicle.”
Kleinert relies on her 27-year engineering career and extensive knowledge of restraint system performance and vehicle safety integration, along with her real-world experience and perspective as a mother and grandmother. Her commitment to child passenger safety doesn’t stop at the end of the work day.
As a certified child passenger safety technician, she volunteers with Safe Kids USA’s Buckle Up educational programs to teach parents and caregivers about proper car seat installation and about child safety in and around vehicles. She utilizes her experience from working in the field with parents and caregivers to help drive interior designs that make child safety seat installation easier in the Malibu and other GM vehicles. Because three out of four child safety seats are incorrectly installed, Kleinert said, she urges parents to take advantage of local check-up events, even if they believe they are using their child safety seat correctly.
“When my kids were teenagers and learning how to drive, they didn’t always appreciate having a mom who was a safety engineer,” said Kleinert. “Now that one of my sons has two children, I put my child passenger safety training to good use by teaching him and my daughter-in-law how to properly install car seats in their vehicles.”
is the lead acoustic noise engineer and is a specially trained audiologist whose sensitive hearing skills helped her identify where certain noises may have originated, and how to reduce, block and absorb the noise from entering the cabin of the new Malibu. She is key part of a team that eradicates the main sources of noise – wind, road and tire – from entering the interior of the new Malibu.
Her work has helped make the new Malibu the quietest Chevrolet ever for interior cabin noise and, as a result, customers around the world can expect a quiet ride which the Malibu delivers in spades. See our Preview of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco
describing one of its best attributes for more.
With two young boys, Gordon’s home isn’t always as quiet as the Malibu, but she adds a little serenity with yoga and enforces a house rule of quiet time until 9 a.m. on weekends.
Gordon is also a passionate environmentalist who hopes to live “off the grid” soon and loves tending to her organic garden and remodeling her 100-year-old home.
is a Malibu vehicle line manager and the person who I believe gave the sound presentation on the all-new Malibu at the Long Lead in Austin, TX late last year. Her passion for science and math was sparked during a high school field trip to view a vehicle crash test. That experience led her to pursue an engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an engineering career at GM following graduation.
Today, Tracy serves as lead engineering manager responsible for the timely development and launch of the Malibu, a role with great challenges and responsibilities – and one typically held by men. She also has a patent in lighting technology that helps prevent premature lamp burnout.
As a wife, a mother of two young children, and a Harvard University master’s candidate (she already has a master’s degree from Purdue University), Tracy is also an accomplished multi-tasker.
Ultimately, she says, it’s her commitment to cultivating and nurturing a strong family that drives her. Tracy will not travel on her husband or children’s birthdays, and despite a hectic travel schedule that saw her log about 40,000 miles in less than a year in support of the Malibu launch, she is adamant about picking up her children from school on Fridays.
“The Malibu is a vehicle that is very kid-friendly, that’s easy for you to use to transport your kids to their activities – whether it is soccer or swimming – and that makes you look good and stylish while doing it. So not only are you a mother, but you are mother with pizzazz.”
While I will never have the perspective of a mom (thank goodness as that is the toughest job on the planet
), you can bet the Malibu was fretted over with a fine tooth comb making sure it is as user friendly to the female drivers and passengers as it is to us males.
Well done “Fantastic Four” and I cannot wait to see what you are involved with at GM next.