Nissan’s José Muñoz honored at 2018 SAE Foundation gala in Detroit

Nissan Chief Performance Officer José Muñoz (Photo by Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

DETROIT — Thousands of dollars was raised to support the SAE Foundation at their annual celebration on Thursday inside the historic Masonic Temple Theatre. Nissan’s Chief Performance Officer José Muñoz was the top honoree and received the SAE Foundation’s Industry Leadership Award.

Prior to the awards presentation, students showed off their concept designs for SAE’s A World in Motion and Collegiate Design series. Students from the St. Edith School in Livonia gave demonstrations of their motorized toy cars. Other demonstrations included rolling things, straw rockets, jet toy, skimmer, fuel cell and cybersecurity. Attendees had the opportunity to talk with the students as well.

“Since the last time we were together, much has transpired,” said Dan Nicholson, chair of the SAE Foundation. “We educated 100,000 more students, we trained 5,000 teachers and we placed thousands of industry volunteers right in the classroom. Still, as a nation and as a state, we find ourselves in constant conversation of poor quality of our educational system and the daunting task of keeping pace with the rest of the world. Right now, frankly we’re losing.  As we address this challenge, it’s critical that we cast a wider net in terms of inspiring students and providing teachers with better resources and improving the delivery of STEM education. This is one of many areas where SAE’s programs really stand out.”

Autoline Detroit‘s John McElroy served as the emcee for the evening. He introduced the speakers and also taped a 30-minute conversation with Muñoz for his television program.

During the interview, José Muñoz was asked about the rollout of autonomous vehicles.

“It’s sooner than we think,” he answered. “We’re gonna see different stages of introduction. What we call co-pilot. At Nissan, we are pioneers with co-pilot assist. We put [it] in more than 70,000 vehicles. Here in the states, we launched the LEAF. It’s on the road. It’s our flagship in terms of technology. We want to be leaders in mobility. At Silicon Valley, the car is doing way more than what it can today.”

McElroy wondered about Nissan’s opinion on ridesharing and vehicle ownership.

“We don’t see this as something that will prevent ownership,” Muñoz explained.  “It will change the industry. This is a better business opportunity. We’re still producing good quality cars. Big opportunities in the U.S. but also in China. I see the car as something that’s very personal. I want to own my phone. I want to be connected. Many reasons why we can still have traditional ownership.”

How does the United States stack up against other countries in terms of autonomous vehicles and other emerging technologies?

Muñoz answered: “The U.S. started first but the Chinese are getting much faster. They are fast on getting new concepts. The Chinese consumer is very eager. They embrace the new concept and the new technology. Europe will have to make tough decisions.”

SAE International CEO David L. Schutt offered a special tribute to the late Arnie Siegel, a former SAE Fellow and Medal of Honor recipient. Siegel’s work was in Crash Injury Research conducted at UCLA. This pioneering research has contributed to modern crashworthy transportation vehicles and to the understanding of human tolerance in collisions.

“Arnie passed away almost a year ago,” Schutt explained. “But it’s clear that he will not be forgotten. As a professional, Arnie donated his work to humanity–more specifically, safety, mobility and education for all. He wanted to make cars safer for everyone who drove them and everyone who rode in them. Devices that we may take for granted today, such as a child safety seat, can be tracked back to Arnie. Arnie was simply the measuring stick by which all others can be compared.”

Other honorees included:

  • Donald W. Ableson Award for Visionary Leadership: Bruce Aubin from Air Canada
  • Gordon Millar Award: The FCA Foundation
  • SAE Foundation/DENSO Young Industry Leadership Award: Amanda Martin from Caterpillar Inc.; Patrick Miller from Faurecia

Seventh graders Amanda Knutson and Aliyah Jackson from Emerson Elementary School kicked off the program with some engineering-based comedy. Then, the awards ceremony began.

For more information about the SAE foundation or to make a donation, visit




Students from Livonia’s St. Edith School showing off their motorized toy cars.


Amanda Knutson and Aliyah Jackson, 7th graders from Emerson Elementary School, welcomed everyone.


Autoline‘s John McElroy interviewing Nissan’s José Muñoz for his television program.


Bruce Aubin accepts the Donald W. Ableson Award for Visionary Leadership from Donald Ableson (pictured left).


Amanda Martin from Caterpillar Inc. received the first of two SAE Foundation/DENSO Young Industry Leadership awards.


Meanwhile, Patrick Miller from Faurecia received the second SAE Foundation/DENSO Young Industry Leadership award.


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