In Oct. 2010, Brian Long was told to start a journey that would prove most rewarding for the automotive engineer. Long, who graduated from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s in industrial engineering, was sent to Brazil to work on General Motor’s new Chevrolet Colorado truck. After being unveiled on Nov. 20, 2014, at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the Colorado was awarded the 2015 Motor Trend Truck of the Year.
“I have a great sense of accomplishment for everyone who had a hand in this,” said Long. “I could not feel more proud.”
Long was chosen by General Motors’ executives to help develop a mid-size truck that would be a better fit for customer needs. He was sent to work at GM’s Technical Center in S�o Paulo, Brazil, for a year to start the process and then returned to the company’s North American headquarters in 2012.
The Colorado was first manufactured in 2004 and discontinued in 2012. It was re-introduced in 2014 with a new mindset: to win the consumer over.
“The old model wasn’t the market leader, so our goal from the beginning was to win the customer over,” explained Long. “We had a good check and balance system in place to make sure that the team was building a quality vehicle that would appeal to buyers.”
As the program’s quality manager, Long’s job was to ensure that the vehicle was designed to exceed industry tests while balancing performance, fuel economy and the driving experience.
“We didn’t sacrifice fuel economy over tow capacity or the capability over the driving experience,” he said.
Long has spent his entire career working on GM trucks, giving him a broad understanding of industry tests and the customer base. He began as a student interning with the company. He was hired upon graduating in 2001 and began working in Flint, Michigan. Quickly, he became a plant supervisor and then a reliability manager four years later.
In 2008, Long moved into GM’s central office, at the Vehicle Engineering Center in Warren, Michigan, and was in charge of program quality for trucks and future product development. It was in this position that he was asked to start the Colorado project.
Long says that he is proud of the way his team worked together to connect with the customer. Their work produced a unanimous vote for the award.
“There has been a big change in the industry. Everything is more integrated and we are more connected to the customer and each other,” he said. “This helps us design and build a better product.”
Long said that the education he received at WVU is unique because it trained him to be a professional team member.
“For a large university, WVU’s engineering college made you feel like you were at a small college. The professors gave good, close attention to their students,” said Long. “I gained a lot of experience working on project teams at WVU.
“On an academic group project, you learn what it takes to get something done as a team. That one-on-one touch-point with other human beings was priceless for me.”
Long will continue to practice these skills in his new role as the quality manager of the GM Powertrain Test Fleets.
CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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