The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
COLLECTING CRASH DATA TO KEEP CANADIANS SAFE
At PMG Technologies’ test centre in Blainville, Que., Alexandre Mailloux is looking out for Canadian drivers.
He’s an instrumentation technologist at the facility, which performs crash tests, fuel-consumption evaluation, and dynamic testing for such clients as Transport Canada, automakers and private companies.
“My job is to be between the test and delivering the data,” Mailloux said. “I make the measurements for speed, force, temperature, all the physical aspects that are happening to the car. I need to know the correct instruments to use to be able to acquire accurate, precise data and then deliver that data to my customer.”
After studying electronic design in college, Mailloux worked in industrial automation for a company that made packaging machines. His career path included a bio-electronic company where he worked on an electronic stethoscope for doctors with hearing issues; and as a mechanical designer, he helped to create licence-plate recognition cameras that are now used around the globe. When he saw that PMG was looking for someone with his type of experience, he applied for the position. He started there five years ago.
For each type of test, Mailloux has to select the right instrument, correctly configure it, install it effectively in the vehicle and interpret the data.
“We need to be at the kickoff of the project, and we are inside the testing from the start until the end of the test,” he said. For crash testing, he collects such information as acceleration and force, the pressure on the seat belt and the angle of the steering wheel.
“My job is important because it’s a big part of the test result that we deliver to the customer. I take part in the safety of Canadians, and build trust in our regulations, our work, and our impact on vehicle safety.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO PRESERVING CANADA’S PAST
Automakers look ahead, but Alex Gates knows that the past also must be preserved. He’s the executive director and curator of the Canadian Automotive Museum in Oshawa, Ont.
“It’s the most significant Canadian collection for the rarity of some of the vehicles, along with their prov-enance and their relationships to important Canadian events,” he said.
The museum owns several cars built exclusively in Canada, including a McKay, Brockville-Atlas and Brooks Steamer, as well as a Rolls-Royce used for a royal tour in Montreal in 1919.
Originally from the United States, Gates studied international relations there, then did graduate work in museum studies at the University of Toronto. He was running a small museum in Michigan when the Canadian museum hired him.
Opened in 1963 and housed in a 1920s car dealership, the museum was looking tired when Gates arrived in 2014. Since then, he’s improved the exterior, increased vehicle maintenance and added bilingual information panels. In conjunction with Oshawa’s library system, much of the museum’s extensive book and magazine collection is now available electronically to the public.
“The challenge I inherited is the space,” Gates said. “We have 18,000 square feet (1,700 square metres), which is sizeable for a museum gallery, but for automobiles it feels cramped. We’re making it look more airy and bright.”
Funding is another issue: the non-profit museum isn’t supported by governments or automakers and Gates has procured grants for much of the updating.
“The goal is to represent Canadian automobiles on an international level,” he said. “Compared to the 300plus American collections, there are only a handful of Canadian ones. I’m trying to curate a collection that tells our story and isn’t just a treasure box of the shiniest or most expensive cars. We want people to see themselves in the stories of these cars.”
MARY LEIGH BURROWES
MAKING CARS JUST RIGHT FOR CANADIANS
Canadian customers want specific vehicle features and it’s Mary Leigh Burrowes job to know what they are.
As manager of product planning for Honda and Acura Canada, she makes sure everything meets their requirements.
“We’re involved right from the beginning stages of design all through development, and it’s our job to make sure the vehicles we’re bringing to market are in line with our corporate vision,” she said. “From inception to birth with these vehicles, I have a team of product planners that I work with to focus on the needs of Canadian customers.”
Burrowes studied psychology and mass communication at York University in Toronto.
“I didn’t have autos in my sight when I graduated in 2001.
“I got out o school and it was a tough time to find jobs, so I temped,” which is how she ended up at Honda Canada, working to bring the electronic parts catalogue online.
She planned to return to school but quickly discovered she was right where she wanted to be.
“It was a dynamic, growing place, and I liked the product and the people. I looked for full-time opportunities to stay there.”
The first available position was administrative assis tant at the Toronto zone office where she got to know dealers. She moved to marketing, then became the Canadian representative at the company’s Ohio office.
“We were a new group made up of salespeople manufacturing, r&d and purchasing, and we were a think tank doing global sales strategy. I then moved to our Los Angeles office and learned North American sales strategy there before returning to Canada this year for my current job.
“Honda has given me amazing opportunities to see all sides of the company,” she said. “It’s what makes us strong employees.”
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