Michael J. Whitens, retired former Global Director for Ford Motor Company’s Vehicle and Enterprise Sciences at Ford’s Research and Innovation Center, has been named the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award winner by the Automotive Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE). In his most recent role at Ford (2014–2018), he led the development of technology strategy and implementation in support of emerging areas including plastics/polymers, advanced plastics processing technologies, composites and material formulations with responsibility for over 500 researchers at three Ford Motor Company global facilities.
He has demonstrated expertise working on several advanced plastics processes including micro-cellular foaming, long-fiber thermoplastic (D-LFT) composites, natural fiber composites, carbon fiber composites, nano additive based composites, metal-plastics hybrid molding, co-injection molding, twin-screw extrusion compounding, polyurethane foams and more. His work includes the development of several innovations for numerous automotive plastics applications, ranging from interiors and exteriors to under the hood and safety – including instrument panels, door panels, door modules, molded-in-color, seating, NVH foams, fuel systems components and more.
An automotive industry veteran with over 30 years of experience, Whitens spent the majority of his career at Ford in various body engineering disciplines. He also spent three years as the Mustang PVT (Platform Vehicle Team) manager, bringing the second-generation Bullitt and Mach 1 to life.
He is a recognized leader in the development of innovative technologies in the automotive field, with 35 patents in many areas of component innovation, new material development, safety, body interior, exterior, and vehicle execution. He will be honored for his lifetime of industry expertise and innovation, contributing to the advancement of the automotive plastics industry, at the 49th-annual Automotive Innovation Awards Gala on November 6, 2019, at Burton Manor in Livonia, Mich.
“I am very grateful to be recognized with this esteemed SPE Automotive Division award for Lifetime Achievement, and especially grateful to the talented teams of people I have had the honor to work with who have made this possible,” said Whitens. “This award would not be possible without the challenging work experience that I enjoyed, the innovative support from my associates at Ford and their supplier base, participation in SPE and other professional trade associations and education,” added Whitens.
“Mike is known industry-wide as one of the best problem solvers and innovators in the field of plastics and composites,” said Dr. Alper Kiziltas, industry expert, Ford Motor Company. “He has a rare combination of expertise that is hard to find in the industry, including an understanding of the total system – an interaction between polymeric materials and chemistry, plastic processes, plastics part design, CAE, characterization, and tooling,” continued Kiziltas.