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Former Ram chief engineer Michael J. Cairns

by David Zatz on

Born in June 1962, Michael J. Cairns died on September 7, 2020, only 58 years old. Known as a “hard worker, selfless beyond measure,” Mike was a gifted engineer and leader.

Mike Cairns agreed to be interviewed by Allpar in February 2015, when the company was launching its Laramie Limited luxury truck. It was a revealing interview; Mike was enthusiastic and positive about pretty much everything, as well as being open and honest. One of my favorite interview quotes of all time was his answer to my question of how he dealt with the problem of increasing and conflicting demands for fuel economy, safety, power, capability, and luxury. His answer was:

I talked to our engineering team, and said, “This is why we went to college, why we studied engineering, because that’s what engineering does: we solve problems. So here’s a challenge or problem we have to solve. This is really exciting for engineers, because let’s come up with ideas. Let’s be innovative. Let’s really go after this. So we’ve got a lot of good stuff rolling, a lot of great ideas coming out.”

As an engineer, it is a big challenge but it’s also quite honestly fun because we like to invent. We like to solve problems and come up with creative solutions… You’ve got to do a lot of little things. …

…back in ’13, we wanted to get best-in-class fuel economy. That was our goal for the program. So sat the engineering team down. “Okay, what can we do?” Lots of great ideas. And we put them on a chart that we called the bang for the buck chart.

So how much did this cost versus the percent fuel economy improved? And we plotted all these ideas out and then drew a line and said “Okay, everything here down we’re going to put in the program, and everything up we’re not.” And that’s how we ended up with all these cool things that ended up in the ’13 Ram. And we executed all of those, and it delivered. So here we are with best-in-class fuel economy. So that’s cool. So we’re taking a similar approach as we look down to the future. It’s new ideas, new line…

Anyway, it’s what makes my job fun. We’re not sitting still. And as an engineer, it’s fun challenging ourselves and the industry and technology. It’s good stuff.

Mike Cairns’ optimism and leadership will be missed.

Memorial Contributions may be made to Karmanos Cancer Institute in Michael Cairns’ name.

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