SPE announces 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award winner

Michael J. Whitens, retired formal global director at Ford Motor Co., will be honored at the SPE Automotive Innovation Awards Gala on Nov. 6.


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SPE Lifetime Achievement award winner Michael Whitens

Michael J. Whitens, winner of SPE Automotive division’s 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. Source | SPE


The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE, Detroit, Mich., U.S.) has announced Michael J. Whitens, retired former global director for Ford’s vehicle and enterprise sciences at Ford’s Research and Innovation Center (Dearborn, Mich., U.S.), as its Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Whitens will be honored at the SPE Automotive Innovation Awards Gala on Nov. 6.

In his most recent role at Ford, from 2014-2018, Whitens led the development of technology strategy and implementation in support of emerging areas including plastics/polymers, advanced plastics processing technologies, and composites and material formulations, with responsibility for over 500 researchers at three Ford Motor Co. global facilities.  

“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,” says Whitens.

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 and polyurethane foams. 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 and fuel systems components. 

An automotive industry veteran with more than 30 years of experience, Whitens has spent the majority of his career at Ford Motor Co. 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,” says Whitens. 

“Mike is known industry wide as one of the best problem solvers and innovators in the field of plastics and composites,” says Dr. Alper Kiziltas, industry expert, Ford Motor Co. “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.”

“Mike has a unique combination of global cross-functional leadership and refined people skills, giving him the ability to handle any business challenge,” says Dr. Cynthia Flanigan, chief engineer, vehicle research & technology, Ford Motor Co. “He’s a great leader who is very well-liked and respected in the industry, and most deserving of this award.”

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