New Ford CEO Mark Fields sees car as phone, web, and wearable on wheels

New Ford CEO Mark Fields sees car as phone, web, and wearable on wheels

Summary: A week from now, Ford will have a new CEO, and his vision for the auto industry involve some of the most innovative tech trends — from wearables and IoT to global sustainability.

TOPICS: Innovation
Ford CEO Mark Fields has embraced the big shoes he has to fill following Alan Mulally. Image: Ford

When Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company, he led with his instincts. He once said, "If I asked people what they wanted, they would have just asked for faster horses."

Mark Fields, the soon-to-be CEO of Ford, told this short story in his opening speech on the eve of Ford's Trends Conference 2014 focusing on global innovation and sustainability in Detroit, Michigan. It underlies messages that are central to his vision as a leader: staying ahead of the curve and making sure our transportation system is much more innovative and impactful than simply driving from point A to point B.

"Some may view [a car] as a cell phone on wheels, a web portal on wheels, or their largest wearable. If their car is more than just a car, then what's a car company?" Fields asked the crowd of 300 at the event.

Fields has been the COO of Ford since 2012, and has worked for the company for 25 years. As COO, he focused on product development, manufacturing, purchasing, as well as marketing and service, and is overseeing an ambitious product release schedule. He has been a leader in the global business operations and has said he wants to make sure Ford becomes a global leader as a company — not only in the automotive industry, but in all those the auto industry effects.

"This is an industry that touches almost every aspect of the economy ... it is the world's most involved industrial product in terms of how it comes together ... the most involved consumer product in terms of how we go to market, build the brand," he said."

Through extensive research of the industry and the innovation surrounding it, Fields said he wants to Ford to be a "personal mobility" company. This extends the vision that Alan Mulally and Bill Ford have created over the past decade.

There are about a billion cars on the road today. Within 20 years, that could double to 2 billion and put even more strain on today's traffic and environmental concerns. And those vehicles also have a big role to play in the Internet of Things, Fields said. They function as much more than a transportation vehicle, now that they sync with our personal devices and lives. Much more technology is becoming available — using wearables and sensors in the vehicle being the most integral to the company's future plans — and the number of people on the road is only growing.

"What [that] means for us is we want to be part of the solution," Fields said. "We have laid out our blueprint for mobility, which spells out the technology, business models, and partnerships we feel we need to make the world a better place."

"At Ford, we are not waiting," he said.

That mindset leads into another important vision: making sure Ford collaborates with other companies and industries to progress towards a common goal of reducing carbon emissions and increasing the use of clean technology and renewable energy to build the most innovative, efficient cars on the market. It will require learning from each other's mistakes and successes, he said.

"Innovation is a very deliberate and relentless process, guided by a true hunger to succeed...and a willingness to fail quickly, use that learning, and try again," Fields said. "How do we disrupt our own industry and our own company before others do it for us."

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Topic: Innovation

Lyndsey Gilpin

About Lyndsey Gilpin

Lyndsey Gilpin is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She writes about the people behind some of tech's most creative innovations and in-depth features on innovation and sustainability.

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  • Personal Mobility Company?

    What does that mean? Given the dangers our being distracted while driving I want to see less "personal mobility" than more.
  • I would prefer

    I would prefer people pay attention to driving and only driving while in the car.
    Buster Friendly
  • Oh Great! ! !

    That's all we need ... more distractions on the road!
    da philster
  • The people at Ford are not realizing it, but, they're becoming dinosaurs

    and so are the rest of the automakers.

    Ford, as well as the other automakers, will be downsized in 10-20 years, when the autonomous vehicles start becoming popular. People will realize that they don't need to own a car or truck. Cars and truck will be so "smart" that, people will just "call" a rental with their smartphones or smartwear, and BINGO!, instant transportation at your front door or at work.

    So, instead of the "2 billion cars" that the article above mentions, it will be a fleet of 500,000 or less to serve most people on the planet. Most vehicles are sitting still most of the day, so people will decide that, if a vehicle can be made available for use when needed, then, why even become an owner?

    The car companies are conducting research into autonomous vehicles, and making them "smart". What those car companies are really doing, is writing their own death certificates.
  • How about making vehicles easier to service?

    It would be nice if vehicle manufacturers would make it easier to service vehicles. For instance, a simple job of replacing sparkplugs of years ago is now a nightmare or quite difficult with transverse mounted engines. On a 2011 Ford Ranger, although the engine is not transverse mounted and in order to change the sparkplugs on the passenger side, you have to remove the right front tire and the right hand splash shield to get to the spark plugs. How's that for good design?

    It gets worse, of course. I've heard that the front end of some Ford trucks about have to be dismantled to replace the serpentine belt. Unless you do the work yourself, you've got to pay someone to do a job that takes much longer than it should--and then people probably don't want to service their vehicles themselves either because of the difficulty or complexity.
    • Required vehicle servicing could go down for EVs.

      With an electric vehicle, the power train is a set of 4 electric
      motors. There is no transmission, no cat-converter, no muffler,
      no break pads, no hydraulic system. Therefore, no break fluid,
      or transmission fluid; no gasoline, no gasoline filters, no oil and filters. In short, there are significantly fewer mechanical parts
      to maintain.

      Depending on advances in heating/cooling, there may not even be a motor for the HVAC system. It could be the only fluid you will need is windshield cleaner. Of course this last idea is only pie
      in the sky.

      So what is there that needs regular service? HVAC air filters?
      windshield wipers and cleaners. Grease for the joints, to stop
      the squeaks, springs, batteries, and tires.

      Of course on the down side, there is the electrical wiring, light
      bulbs, the "computer" which controls everything, and the sensors
      that make the device aware of its surroundings, and batteries will need servicing. The cost of fixing/replacing these sophisticated complex electronics may have a high cost. While you may be able to do it yourself, it may not be that cheap to do it.

      If the vehicle is designed correctly (i.e. interchangeable parts),
      then the need for mechanics, might go down.

      Of course this puts more people out of work. The needs for
      show rooms, and vehicle maintenance bays, go down.

      The idea of reducing the number of automobiles, because
      no one needs to own them is a pipe-dream. I look at the
      social structures already built into our current society.
      How many driveways, garages, and subdivision roads
      already exist? Hoping that someone will be able to summon
      a vehicle in minutes, rather than going out and getting into
      their own auto and driving off into the sunset, is like seeing smoke from a tailpipe.

      I have often hoped that someday all of the electrical cables
      will be buried underground. I look forward to the day when
      all of the utility poles and overhead web will be hidden. But
      in my heart I know that will never happen. The people
      dreaming of a society of shared vehicles are taking a similar
      view of things. That society may already exist in EU, but
      a different structure is in place in the US. Changing culture
      is very difficult. Just changing to non-carbon burning power
      is almost impossible.
  • car ifnotech

    As long as the car's doing the driving ..........he's putting the cart before the horse right now !
    preferred user
  • infotech

    GM needs to learn to make keys and ign switches that work and Ford needs to learn how to make cars that don't burn to the ground or break steering tie rods !

    You would think after all these years that cars have had ignition switches and keys along with steering tie rods and cars that did not burn to the ground unattended they could get these things right with some degree of consistency.

    Until they can do that thay need to stick to the basics and just make safe cars and leave the advanced technology to Mercedes ,BMW,Audi that have a proven track record !
    preferred user