François J. Castaing (born 1945 in France) is a 27-year veteran automotive executive with Renault, American Motors, and Chrysler. He is an engineering graduate from École Nationale Supérieure d'Arts et Métiers in Paris, and worked in Europe for Gordini and Renault before being named Vice President for Product Engineering and Development at American Motors Corporation (AMC).
With Gordini and Renault
Castaing started his career in motor sports with Gordini in 1968 by working on engines for the 24 Hours of Le Mans races. After Gordini had been taken over by Renault, he advanced to the position of Renault Sport Technical Director. His record of accomplishment with Renault included stints as a member of a racing-engine development team and as director of racing programs. He had joined AMC from Renault, which owned 46% of the company. He and his family moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1980.
With AMC and Chrysler
Castaing was responsible for product engineering and development at AMC. He was critical in the development of the downsized Jeep Cherokee SUV that became very profitable for AMC. He designed a new development approach in which teams of engineers focused on a single type of car platform, working on new models as a system from concept to production. This differed from the standard automotive practice of organizing work around departments (project planning, design, engineering, manufacturing, marketing) and components (engine, powertrain, body).
After AMC's buyout in 1987, Chrysler insiders speculated that AMC would take over the larger firm from within. Part of the reason was that AMC's Jeep Cherokee product line alone soon accounted for more than a third of Chrysler's profits. Another area where former AMC people took over Chrysler operations was engineering. Castaing was quickly named Chrysler Motors' new Vice President for Vehicle Engineering. The acquiring company was in desperate need to replicate the culture at AMC and Renault where work was conducted in an atmosphere "of constant change" .
Before the purchase of AMC, Chrysler was suffering a five-year product slump after it hit a home run with its minivans in 1984. It was mainly making K-car derivatives that looked and drove alike. Chrysler became a producer of smaller cars, thus making it vulnerable to Japanese competitors. Not only was Castaing made Chrysler's point man for fighting the Japanese automakers, but he was also called to engineer a variety of products to fit a growing number of market niches.
Castaing followed the example that was used in AMC's old Amtek technical center in Detroit. He realigned Chrysler's 6,000-member engineering structure into teams working on a single platform. Castaing also incorporated the use of simultaneous engineering. The results of switching to the non-linear platform design were significant.
At the time of AMC's buyout, Chrysler was designing the replacement for the then-new Dodge Dynasty, a mid-size car. The proposed replacement bore a direct resemblance to the existing Dynasty. However, with the purchase of AMC, a new product design system was instituted and work began by using AMC's Eagle Premier platform. According to Chrysler's President, Robert Lutz, the in-house design was scrapped entirely and the new design, under Castaing's leadership, was selected. The Chrysler LH-cars were first to use Castaing's platform approach. These new models were produced in a record 39 months, compared to other Chrysler cars that took more than 50 months. The Eagle Vision, Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde, LHS and New Yorker were all produced in AMC's state of the art Brampton Assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario, Canada that was built to make the Eagle Premier.
In 1996, Castaing was appointed executive vice president for Chrysler International Operations. After the Daimler-Benz merger with Chrysler in 1998, he became technical adviser to Bob Eaton until retirement in 2000.
Castaing was also a member in "Dodge Viper Team".
Castaing was named “Man of the Year” by the French publication "Le Journal de l'Automobile" for his exemplary success in the United States. He was noted for developing the Renault-AMC structure, the launching of Renault Alliance and Encore (Renault 9 & 11), for being the father of the Jeep Cherokee (XJ), as well as being one of the craftsmen of the rescue of Chrysler.
- The Detroit Science Center. Francois J. Castaing, Chairman Retrieved on December 17 2007.
- People: Francois Castaing, GP Encyclopedia, retrieved on December 17 2007.
- "François Castaing: Homme de l'année" Le Journal de l'Automobile, 2/9/2005. (French) Retrieved on December 17 2007.
- Karlenzig, Warren. "Chrysler’s New Know-Mobiles: Knowledge practices pay off in hot new car models, even as post-merger integration presents new challenges". Knowledge Management Magazine. May 1999. 
- Lutz, Robert A. (1999). Guts: The Seven Laws of Business That Made Chrysler the World's Hottest Car Company. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-47135-765-0.
- Miller, Edward K. "Chrysler engineers realign: V.P. Castaing says SE will be byproduct of restructure - Francois Castaing; simultaneous engineering". Ward's Auto World, March, 1989.