Ford’s Hackett: ‘Dumb Cars’ Will Be a Thing of the Past


“Ford’s future is not about giving up the car,” Jim Hackett, Ford chief executive officer, exclaimed at the Michigan CEO Summit in Detroit on Thursday. But he promises there will be “no dumb cars in the future.”

The executive was not assuring attendees that Ford has no plans to revive the Mustang II, rather, he was talking about the brand’s continued efforts to press onward into the development of electric, connected, and self-driving automobiles on a global scale. With Wall Street still fixated on tech, it would be surprising to hear any automotive executive say otherwise.  

Ford’s share price had suffered a number of falls since its post-recession rebound and, despite gaining some upward momentum in August, remains south of where top brass would like to be. How much of that is to blame on tech talk is debatable, though. Hackett’s predecessor, Mark Fields, was exceptionally interested in rebranding Ford as a mobility company, but it didn’t make shareholders particularly happy.

Hackett’s strategy appears to be more grounded, without abandoning Fields’ long-term vision of advanced technologies. It’s a balancing act. The current CEO knows Ford’s future will remain that of a traditional automaker, but he’s trying to remind the world that the company is also taking tangible steps into developing “smarter” automobiles.

On Wednesday, Ford announced a joint venture to manufacture and sell a new line of battery-powered cars in China. It has also persisted with connectivity, with Hackett going so far as to suggest linking passenger vehicles to the internet would allow the firm to eventually perform double duty as a data company. While the revenue stream for that isn’t crystal clear, it’s assumed Ford could use the information collected from drivers for targeted advertising purposes. General Motors has proposed something similar in the past via a collaborative venture with IBM.

On the autonomous side of business, Ford has hopped into bed with numerous companies to test self-driving acceptance while testing hardware on the home front. Even though some of these attempts had little to do with vehicle development, you can see the company making headway while the CEO presses for an acceleration of traditional products.

“We have to evolve these things to be ever smarter,” Hackett said, mentioning that connected and autonomous vehicles would provide benefits previously unfathomable from an automobile. “For a while, we didn’t see the computer as an integrated aspect,” he continued. “Now, think about it, my vehicle is a rolling computer.”

[Source: Bloomberg] [Image: Ford Motor Company]

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