John Savona, 53
Vice president of manufacturing, Ford Motor Co.
Military branch: Army
As Ford Motor Co.’s vice president of manufacturing and labor affairs, John Savona is in charge of roughly 30 plants that produce components and vehicles around the world.
A lot could go wrong on any given day, especially as Ford tries to launch multiple high-profile vehicles amid a global pandemic and industrywide semiconductor shortage. But Savona says he’s especially prepared for the high-stress job after three years as an Army sergeant.
“The military really gave me an appreciation for how important it is to put the work in and have the ability to work as a team,” he told Automotive News. “We all knew that if any one of us lost our focus or didn’t do our job, somebody could pay with their life. If we lose our focus and don’t build quality into every vehicle we produce, there’s a possibility we could put families at risk.”
Savona joined the Army in 1986 out of high school, intrigued by the prospect of military training and the potential to see part of the world. After four months of basic training in Alabama, he was deployed to Germany as a military policeman in the city of Würzburg.
While the overseas assignment was initially a culture shock, Savona said he quickly grew to love the experience — which included trips to spots such as the French Riviera to serve as a rifleman in color guards at various ceremonies.
Almost immediately after he returned to the U.S. in 1989, Savona, whose father worked at Ford, joined the automaker as a security guard at the site of what is now its Michigan Assembly Plant.
His military experience has shaped his career, whether it’s the discipline of daily 5-mile jogs or the leadership of visits to plants and dealerships to understand what’s going on with the company’s products.
“Visiting with them gives me the perspective to understand where the issues are and to help the team,” Savona said. “I feel like my job is to serve our customers and our dealers.”
— Michael Martinez