Early life and education
Krafcik grew up in Southington, Connecticut. He studied mechanical engineering at Stanford University, where he graduated in 1983. He received his master's degree in management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1988, where he studied under James P. Womack.
Krafcik worked in traditional automotive manufacturing for several decades before moving to Google's self-driving car project in 2015. His first job was at New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc., a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota, as a quality and manufacturing engineer from 1984 to 1986. He worked in the International Motor Vehicle Program at MIT as a lean production researcher and consultant from 1986 to 1990. During this time, Krafcik traveled and studied 90 manufacturing plants in 20 countries, comparing their productivity and quality. His studies formed the data behind Womack's book, The Machine That Changed the World. The book was a study on "lean production", a term Krafcik coined. In 1990, Krafcik moved to Ford Motor Company where he held several positions, including chief engineer for the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator in the late 1990s and early 2000s and the chief engineer for truck chassis engineering.
Krafcik started at Hyundai Motor America as vice president for product development and strategic planning in 2004. Within a few years he was promoted to become the president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America until the end of 2013.
Krafcik moved to become president of True Car, Inc. in 2014 and served as a director of the company's board.
Google hired Krafcik to head its self-driving cars unit in September 2015, as the company struggled to build relationships in the Motor City.