PALO ALTO, Calif. -- When Chih-Wei Tang tells people here that he works for Ford, they usually assume he means a local dealership.
Tang is a mechatronics engineer at Ford Motor Co.'s Silicon Valley Research and Innovation Center, which opened in January. A Stanford University graduate student when a Ford recruiter called, Tang could have pursued a career with any number of nearby technology companies, but Ford impressed him with the level of resources it's devoting to the area.
"Cars are not something that Silicon Valley people think about on a daily basis," he said. "But it really struck me that they are serious about being here and being part of the community."
By setting up shop in Palo Alto, Ford has begun attracting employees who would be unlikely to join the automaker at its main campus in Michigan. Ford sees their diverse backgrounds and perspectives as vital assets in a rapidly advancing industry.
Some came to Ford from high-tech companies such as Apple Inc. or right out of Stanford, one of the top-rated engineering schools in the country. Some have had experience establishing or working for startup firms -- which fits into CEO Mark Fields' effort to make Ford "think, act and disrupt like a startup."
Even if those employees don't stay with Ford for a 30-year career, or more than just a year or two, as is common in the tech industry, Fields said the automaker benefits from being able to tap their knowledge.