At Ford, mobility is seen as a human right
Bill Ford: Envisions an industry the “best and brightest” will still want to work for.
This article will be included in the second part of “Redesigning the Industry,” an Automotive News series exploring the future of a business in the throes of change. Part II will appear in our Nov. 13 issue and will focus on automakers’ strategies.
Ford Motor Co.’s strategy for the next 100 years is guided by the same principle that drove its success in its first 100: Make people’s lives better.
It’s more than just a marketing slogan. Executive Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett speak of mobility as a human rights issue, and every decision regarding self-driving vehicles and new mobility services is shaped with the consumer in mind.
The automaker has sunk billions into autonomous vehicle technology and electrification in recent years. Those investments have cut into near-term profits and aren’t likely to pay off for years — Ford doesn’t plan to introduce a self-driving vehicle until 2021, and consumers have yet to embrace EVs.
“It’s not about who’s first to market,” Bill Ford said last month at a speech in Detroit. “It’s about who’s most thoughtful to market. There are so many ways that technology can be deployed just for technology’s sake that leave people frustrated.”
Hackett: Keeps the user in mind
Case in point: As many of its competitors deploy self-driving test cars, Ford earlier this year became the first to pilot a self-driving pizza delivery service. The automaker views it as a practical, consumer-focused application of the technology.
Ford is also investing in new technologies that address looming societal crises. Ford executives often cite United Nations statistics that say that by the middle of this century, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. As that number rises, traffic congestion, and the pollution it causes, will get progressively worse. Ford hopes that the electric, self-driving shuttles of the future will reduce the number of vehicles on the road and make commutes more efficient.
Part of the automaker’s push for a cleaner future stems from an “awakening” experienced by its executive chairman when he was in college.
His professors talked about the industry “in a way I had never heard before, and it actually really scared me,” Ford recalled earlier this year. “If this is the way the next generation will be educated about our industry, I felt like we could become the tobacco industry if we weren’t careful, where the best and the brightest young people didn’t want to work for us, and that our employees would someday have to apologize to their family and friends for working there. I never wanted that to happen.”