Chief Engineer of the Ram 1500, Elizabeth Krear is someone you’d want to have as a friend. I interviewed Elizabeth — a perky, petite, fun, and intelligent woman — during the Texas Truck Rodeo.
As a woman I sometimes find it difficult to interview male engineers: They don’t get my sense of humor and they talk in engineering terms that are way above my head. Not so with Elizabeth: We bonded right away over kids, kitchens, and our mutual love of trucks.
Elizabeth oversees all budgets, planning, engineering, development, quality, and launch management of the Ram 1500. With more than 25 years in the automotive industry, she received two Master’s degrees while working full-time and raising two kids with her husband, Tad.
Following are excerpts from my interview with the engineer:
Holly Reich: Whenever I see a Ram, I think, “If the Ram were a man, who would he be?” It’s such a deliciously macho truck.
Elizabeth Krear: Haha! The Ram is so many things, no one man could cut it.
HR: Looking at your resume, one thing sticks out: You have two Master’s — the first one in Engineering in 1990. Then you went back over a decade later to get another Master’s in Business Administration. How did you have the energy to take on graduate school along with raising a family and working full time?
EK: I got the first degree when I was working for Chrysler as a single college graduate. When you enter into the industry you’re assigned an executive sponsor and you’re required to get a masters in engineering. In 2011, my boss offered me the opportunity to go to Michigan State’s graduate program. At the time I was in charge of quality for the Ram as well as building pilots for the 2013 Ram program. I went home and talked to my husband and two kids and we agreed that we could make it work. I never turn down a great opportunity.
It seems overwhelming. Here’s how I did it: I was not going to leave my family or my business, and I wanted the kids to be a part of the experience. So I put 800 or something jawbreakers in a big fishbowl on the kitchen table to entice the kids and that is where I would study. It became a meeting place for the family.
HR: How did you end up in engineering?
EK: When I was graduating high school and I wasn’t quite sure what to study, my Dad asked me what I wanted to be. I told him that I wanted to be in business. He advised me to get an engineering degree. It was great advice.
Engineering training is basically problem solving. It has so many business elements. When I mentor women and high school girls, I tell them that engineering is a great field if you are good at math and interested in how things work.
HR: So, what do engineers do?
EK: There are so many facets of engineering. For example, you can specialize on internal combustion engines and focus your whole career on that, or you can zero in on hybrid technology. As an engineer, I can be a decision maker. I focus on a whole product (the Ram) and my job is to stay inside the budget constraints and find a solution to producing volume while keeping it a good product.
HR: Ok, as an aside — are your kids “car crazy”?
EK: My son is. My daughter is truck crazy; she would love a Ram over a Jeep. My son loves Chrysler so much that he wants to open a new division: Chrysler and beyond. Of my two kids, I imagine he will be a gear head.
HR: What was your first car?
EK: My first car was a Ford Falcon from the 1960s. The first car I bought was a Dodge Daytona in turbo white with a burgundy interior.
HR: Your favorite car color?
EK: The Ram’s mineral gray or granite gray. I love the way it shows off the chrome. It’s a really dynamic color — it has metallic flecks in it.
HR: How is your home decorated?
EK: My husband is a landscape architect so he does a lot of work on our home. Everything is streamlined and architectural, and we select our art very carefully. Our house is 1960’s ranch, or as my husband says, “The Brady Bunch style home.”
HR: Describe your kitchen.
EK: It’s beautiful. When I went back to get my MBA we redid it. It’s very Euro-clean with cherry cabinets, black granite counter tops, and an iridescent gray back splash. The whole front side is glass so it adjoins our beautiful patio.
HR: What are your favorite foods?
EK: My three favorite foods are cheese, crackers with a glass of red wine, followed by chocolate. I could live on that.
— Holly Reich, Motor Matters
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2015
Manufacturer Photo: Elizabeth Krear, Ram 1500 chief engineer, reviews engine, along with Nick Cappa, Ram Truck media specialist.