DETROIT – How many pairs of snow skis could fit in the cargo area of a 1970s-era Ford E-Series van also carrying six kids and their parents on cross-country road trips?
The answer is eight.
Tim Stoehr, Ford general fleet marketing manager, spent his childhood logging tens of thousands of miles with his parents and five siblings in a trio of Ford vans seeking adventure in places like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Vail, Colorado and Park City, Utah. Stoehr’s dad – a surgeon who believed there wasn’t anything someone else could do that he couldn’t – came up with a solution that allowed his family to ride comfortably on road trips and take their outdoor equipment with them.
He fashioned an elevated storage area from a piece of plywood that allowed for customization of the family van, a precursor to the personalization popular in Ford’s commercial vehicle lineup today.
“Those Ford vehicles took us everywhere,” said Stoehr. “When you have six kids, you’re not flying anywhere.”
Each of the vans eventually eclipsed 150,000 miles, all the while stirring Stoehr’s interest in pursuing a future career with Ford Motor Company. The Green Bay, Wisconsin native was so set on coming to work for the Blue Oval that he only went on one other job interview after graduating from business school at the University of Wisconsin – and that was just for the practice.
“When I look back, those vans were the tools that brought the joy to all the things we loved doing, whether it was skiing, boating or camping,” said Stoehr. “I only wanted to work for Ford and it was really because of that experience.”
Stoehr joined Ford in 1989 as a customer service representative. He went on to work in both the Ford and Lincoln divisions, and as marketing manager for Ranger and Super Duty. He served as product marketing manager when Transit crossed the Atlantic to enter the North American market in 2014. Now, as general fleet marketing manager, he is responsible for all Ford commercial trucks and vans.
Among his many responsibilities, Stoehr now attends fleet and trade shows, logging customer feedback for product development and pitching the endless possibilities of Ford’s commercial vehicle lineup to customers like his dad who saw the potential in the cargo area of the family’s 1970s-era E-Series vans.
“I don’t think you can develop great products if you don’t understand the customer,” said Stoehr. “On some of the vehicles I’ve worked on, I was that customer. For any vehicle you’re on, you need to intimately understand what the customer wants, then try to come up with something that works.”