Soft demand for electric vehicles and an unclear regulatory future were among the challenges facing the automotive industry debated during a variety of panel discussions at AutoMobili-D on Thursday January 17, 2019 at NAIAS. (Photo by NAIAS)





Automakers and suppliers are busy reinventing the future with the multi-billion dollar investments in hybrid, electric and self-driving vehicles. At the same time, the industry – along with regulators and municipalities – continue to debate the most effective ways to fit all of the new forms of emerging transportation together in a way that is both profitable and benefits consumers.  (Photo by NAIAS)

  'The Final Word’ with Bill Ford on the change facing the auto industry

By Karen Hudson Samuels
Tell Us USA News

Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. opened himself up to questioning on a broad range of topics in a fireside style interview with Detroit News writer Daniel Howes, before an audience of hundreds gathered for the North American International Auto Show.

On the subject of technology, Ford said he foresaw the change that is driving the auto industry to reinvent itself but cautioned that it’s easy to get transfixed by high tech “You have to take a step back and say is this actually improving people’s lives, making life easier and more fun, and if the answer is ‘no’ we probably shouldn’t do it or repackage it.”

If he could go back in time Ford, said he would love to reframe the whole discussion about car companies moving away from making sedans, “All we’re changing is the silhouette, so if you think of today’s sedan, it will still be there” in a higher profile with more usable interior space, something customers said they want, but if they don’t Ford we can go back and revisit the decision.

Talking about the company’s decision to invest in Corktown, Ford revealed his personal feelings saying for someone who loves the area he “hated” seeing the train station as the poster child for everything that was wrong with Detroit.

In thinking about the train station and all of Corktown he realized “We have something there that can’t be recreated in a Silicon Valley campus.” Ford reasoned that taking one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and repurposing it for the future would make it an interesting place to work and in the war for talent he said that “cool and compelling.”

Ford recently entered into an alliance with Volkswagen to build commercial vehicles but while such partnerships are part of an evolving industry that is looking to control costs, the Chairman said selling parts of the company is not part of the plan.

On subject of regulatory policies governing trade and tariffs Ford said the lack of civility and clarity in Washington is making it difficult for businesses to operate.

“We make billion dollar decisions on sourcing, on purchasing” in an industry Ford says graves clarity and lead time to deal with any reality, whether its tariffs or trade or regulatory policy there is really no clear direction.
It was evident in the hour long conversation that for Bill Ford customer perceptions of the company are paramount “It’s most important to be a trusted company, nothing is more important to me than our corporate reputation.” If customers are afraid of us or technology said Ford it’s not going to work.





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