What Drives Her: Laurie Transou, Chief Engineer of the Mustang Dark Horse

Laurie Transou is no dark horse herself- Mustang's Chief Program Engineer brought her passion and life-long love for Mustang to the seventh generation of Ford's modern, edgy performance cars.

Laurie Transou Feature Image

This most iconic muscle car is her baby.

Laurie Transou has loved Mustang since she learned to drive a manual GT at 16. At the time she couldn’t imagine one day she’d come Mustang’s Chief Program Engineer, in charge of the newest sensation, the Mustang Dark Horse .

Having owned and driven Mustangs her whole life, Laurie wasted no time in her new role funneling a lifelong love into the seventh generation of Mustangs. It features the first performance series in 21 years, including the edgy, new Dark Horse edition with 500 horsepower. Laurie engineered these muscle cars to attract all generations of thrill riders while paying homage to the brand’s 60-year history.

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Learning to Love Mustang Was a Family Thing

Laurie’s history with Mustang goes back a long way, too. In fact, it runs in the family tree. Her father, husband, brother-in-law, and three of her children all work at Ford. Now, Laurie’s fourth child is looking to join the ranks, with an internship at Ford this summer.

Laurie’s father worked for Ford as part of the racing team before becoming an engineer. Watching her father work formed Laurie’s first appeal to engineering.

“So he used to bring home all kinds of cool cars, and that kind of sparked my interest in the auto industry,” Laurie said.

At the age of 16, Laurie’s father even taught her how to drive a manual transmission in a Fox Body Mustang GT. With a heavy clutch that engages quickly and superspeed engine for its time, Laurie was shocked when her father insisted on learning to drive it on the open road.

“It was terrifying. Terrifying! He put me in the car and said, ‘Alright, we’re going. We’re going right on the main road.’”

She still remembers how it felt trying to pull out of the suburb, stalling out with people honking impatiently behind her. But after pushing through the stress and eventually getting the hang of it, manual transmission became Laurie’s favorite way to drive. While she currently owns a Mach E EV, she recently placed an order for a new manual GT convertible.

“There’s no more engaging experience to feel like a part of the car,” Laurie said.

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Laurie Transou With The Mustang Dark Horse

Laurie Transou with the Mustang Dark Horse. Photo: Scotty Reiss

She helped develop the first-ever Ford Explorer

Laurie’s love of math and science in high school also pushed her toward engineering. Even her school counselor suggested the career path, but Laurie remained uncertain. She knew there weren’t many women that worked in engineering at the time, and even fewer in the automotive industry.

Of course, her dad was quick to connect Laurie with some women that he worked with. After some discussion, Laurie officially decided to pursue an engineering degree at the University of Michigan. She got her first internship at a Ford plant building alternators. However, it was her sophomore year internship building the first ever prototypes of the Ford Explorer that really got her hooked.

“I saw this product that was two years out, and these people, we were all working on just trying to get it right for the customer,” Laurie explained. “Being able to be in an assembly plant and see raw material, and then driving out the other end is a vehicle. That was super exciting for me.”

Laurie went on to get a master’s degree before getting a full-time job at Ford. In her first position, Laurie worked on the F-450 strip chassis and many of Ford’s largest vehicles like the Explorer, Expedition and F-series trucks.

“Can you imagine?” Laurie asked. “Here I am in my business suit and my high heels hopping in and out of this gigantic truck.”

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Laurie Transou envisioned the future of Ford’s most iconic vehicles

But her real love was always for Mustang. Aside from learning to drive a manual, the Mustang GT was also Laurie’s first car out of college. Winding up the ranks at Ford, Laurie always had her sights on Mustang. Finally, she got that opportunity as the Chief Strategist and Planner for Icons. This refers to Ford’s most iconic vehicles, such as the Bronco, F-150, and of course, the Mustang.

From there, Laurie had a hand in the future of these vehicles for 2025, 2030, and beyond. Then, the position of Chief Engineer of the Mustang Program opened up, and they offered Laurie her dream job.

Now, Laurie Transou has the pleasure of revealing the seventh generation of Mustangs to the world: The 2024 EcoBoost, GT, and Dark Horse.

“The inspiration was to try to develop the pinnacle of on-road and track performance for a base Mustang,” Laurie said.

A modern, edgy design with outstanding technology and subtle features

And they did just that. The 2024 models are the first performance series of Mustang in 21 years. The Dark Horse is one of the most powerful Mustangs you can buy, delivering 500 horsepower. Plus, every model, including the EcoBoost, comes with an electronic drift brake that Ford designed with the help of Formula Drift driver Vaugh Gitten Jr.

“It’s much more controlled, so you can do those kinds of drift maneuvers in a controlled setting. It’s very popular, particularly with Gen Z and millennials.”

Between the incredible technology of the Unreal Engine, advanced safety features, unique array of color choices, and harmonious interiors, Laurie is thrilled about the “modern, edgy” design of the seventh generation.

For their women buyers, Laurie flaunts the new safety features like pot-hole mitigation and adaptive cruise control. However, she also recognizes that women want to have fun with their cars just as much as the next guy.

“The thing that’s great about Mustang, there’s tons of different colors, tons of ways to express yourself,” Laurie explained.

And for women in the market for a new car, whether or not that be a Mustang, Laurie advises to do your research, reach out to friends and family, but most importantly, be confident.

“A lot of women feel very intimidated by the sales experience,” Laurie said. “Don’t be intimidated. If somebody says something that is bothersome, don’t let that bother you. You are in control.”

Giving a voice to young women engineers

Laurie has built an incredible career for herself, but she also loves building up others. She has been a mentor to many women in the industry. Laurie is heavily involved with Women of Ford and even leads a committee that organizes personal and career growth events for young women at the company.

“As much as the industry has changed over the past 30 years, women will still say, ‘I’m in these situations, and I’m uncomfortable. What should I do?’” Laurie explained. “So a lot of it is around building women up and giving them the confidence and the voice that they need.”

Of course, Laurie has had many mentors throughout her own career that she always knows she can turn to. Among those is Jolanta Coffey, Chief Program Engineer for the Ford Bronco.

“Several of them are CPEs that came before me. Jolanta Coffey, for instance, is a Bronco CPE. To this day, still use her as a mentor. I just ask!” Laurie said.

Laurie values all of her mentors and mentees who have supported her career and also given much needed perspective not only to her but to Ford.

“You are way more capable than you think you are,” Laurie said. “A mix of men and women in the workplace makes way better products with different points of view.”

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Eden is a freelance writer and editor. She is based in Austin, Texas where she is pursuing a bachelor's... More about Eden Shamy