Jackson Bierly, a third grader at Bowling Green Elementary in Missouri, was pondering his science fair project – an air bag for a vehicle exterior – when he was inspired to share his idea with an automaker. So, he chose his favorite.
“I love MOPAR, especially the Dodge brand,” he said in an e-mail to Mark Chernoby, who oversees global vehicle safety and regulatory compliance at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. “I have over 350 Dodge Hot Wheels cars.”
A few months ago, Jackson explained, he was playing with one his cars and wondered if an exterior air bag might solve some problems.
“I think this could help people from getting hurt in crashes and also cut down on damage done to cars,” he wrote. “I can send some of my notes and drawings if you want to look at them. I would like to work for Dodge someday.”
Enter Chernoby, father of five, including a 7-year-old boy. Not content to respond by e-mail, he agreed to a teleconference – only to learn Jackson is president of a nine-member after-school car club comprising like-minded classmates.
Following some creative scheduling, a call was arranged between a cluster of car-crazy 8-year-olds and the man who also sits on FCA’s Group Executive Council as Chief Technical Officer.
Using an FCA US safety lab as a backdrop, Chernoby talked shop and took questions for nearly 20 minutes. Not surprisingly, the 840-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Demon was one topic of discussion.
Chernoby, whose automotive engineering career spans four decades, shared his professional opinion about Jackson’s airbag idea. The young car enthusiast took the advice to heart, but remained undeterred.
“My son is quickly trying to figure out a material strong enough to stop a moving car,” his father, David Bierly, advised FCA in an e-mail following the teleconference.
Where is the safest place for a child to sit in a vehicle? Stay tuned for Part II of the chat between a global auto executive and some boys from Bowling Green.