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DAA: Edward P. Vondell

Edward Vondell

Edward P. Vondell

Mexico City, Mexico | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2010

From Chrysler de Mexico’s headquarters in Mexico City, Ed Vondell oversees design and approval of the automaker’s products for Mexico and Latin America. Growing up in Michigan and working on one of his family’s two farms, he never expected to build his career in the automotive industry. Vondell intended to use his Purdue degree to break into the ag machinery business, but John Deere and Caterpillar weren’t hiring. Instead, Chrysler came to campus, open to talking with agricultural engineers, and Vondell signed on. After two years as a design and test engineer, he decided to learn more about manufacturing and connected with a colleague in Mexico City. Vondell wasn’t exactly a world traveler at the time; the flight from Indianapolis to Detroit for his job interview had been his first plane ride. But determined to expand his skills, he moved to Mexico. He didn’t speak Spanish, so he immersed himself in the language. He also learned firsthand that while engineering focused on products for the future, manufacturing was about the present and often required his round-the-clock attention. In 2002, Chrysler tapped Vondell to manage the Indiana Transmission Plant II in Kokomo, which represented a corporate investment of more than $455 million. He was promoted again in 2006 and moved back to Mexico as head of product engineering. Earlier this year, Chrysler Group LLC partnered with Fiat. “The upper management of the company is now Italian, so it’s about understanding their vision and how to work with them,” Vondell says. “The idea is to get the right product to the customer as quickly as possible at the right quality level and right price.” Vondell and his wife Pilar have two daughters ages 14 and 12 who attend the 130-year-old American School Foundation in Mexico City. Vondell enjoys running and weight training. He maintains contact with Purdue faculty and enjoys returning to campus when possible. “Going to school out of state opened my mind and eyes to the international community. But without an engineering degree from Purdue—if I hadn’t been technically prepared— I wouldn’t have gotten a job in Mexico City.”