Ford CEO Mark Fields says Ford has to respond to changing consumer demands and global dynamics to remain relevant. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.
Ford CEO Mark Fields says Ford has to respond to changing consumer demands and global dynamics to remain relevant. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.

Ford Motor Co. has to transition from a car company into a mobility company, because the global transportation market and consumers’ attitudes are changing, CEO Mark Fields said at an event this week.

The global middle class is expected to double by 2030, he said. Air quality concerns are growing and causing significant health concerns. Meanwhile, 30 new vehicles are sold in the U.S. every minute, and in the same span, seven million miles are driven. But people are also using 125,000 taxis and ride sharing services every minute, and they download 350,000 apps.

“The world is changing, and it’s changing very quickly,” Fields said Monday at the Further with Ford 2016 conference at company headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.

The world has moved from just owning vehicles to owning and sharing them, and that has driven Ford to rethink its entire business model, Fields said. The business is no longer about how many cars Ford can sell, but what services it can provide.

Understanding that switch forces the company to change its approach its business, the CEO said. Ford will solve some challenges on its own, others through acquisitions or partnerships.

It’s not moving from an old business to a new business, Fields said, it’s just moving to a bigger business.

Ford created a subsidiary, Ford Smart Mobility, to invest in emerging mobility services, such as autonomous vehicles and to capture and analyze data to move people more easily to where they want to go, he said.

An autonomous Ford Fusion hybrid. Ford expects to triple its Dearborn fleet by the end of the year, and again next year. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.

Beyond self-driving vehicles, of which the company expects to have about 90 by the end of next year to be used by employees on the Dearborn campus, Ford is partnering with San Francisco to offer a shuttle service that supplements mass transit. The automaker is expanding its bike-sharing program GoBikes, from 700 bikes now to 7,000 by the end of 2018. The company also has established a dedicated team called city solutions to solve transportation issues.

For Ford, a car company with 113 years of history, it remains critical to have one foot in the future while continuing to build on its heritage.

“It’s difficult, but it’s also a lot of fun,” Fields said.

When Fields joined Ford in 1989, the company was a great manufacturing company, he said. Over the years, it has grown into a great manufacturing and technology company. To succeed going forward, Ford has to be a great manufacturing, technology and information company.

“We are at a very important inflection point … to become an automotive and mobility company.

“We have lots to do,” Fields said.

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Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.


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