The chief executive of Ford has told the BBC that his company is “working on the assumption” that its major rivals in the future may not be General Motors or Chrysler, but more likely Google and Apple.
In an interview with the corporation’s economics editor Kamal Ahmed, Mark Fields said he’s “working on the assumption” that Apple is, like Google, working on its own car project.
“And that provides us with the right motivation to make sure we stay very focused not only on the product but overall on the experience that the customer has interacting with the product and the services that we have,” he said, and that “staying focused” means launching a new Ford technology business in Palo Alto in Silicon Valley, working on “autonomous cars”.
Ahmed asked him whether the biggest threat to his company comes from General Motors or Google, “There are a lot of traditional competitors that we have in our business who we know and we respect,” he said. “There are a lot of new non-traditional competitors who are looking at the automotive space and looking at that addressable market and saying ‘gee can we get a piece of that’.
“We are viewing that as an opportunity not as a threat and there will be some things [we can do] on our own to be able to satisfy those customer needs that technology enables.
“And at other times we will partner with others and that’s the reason we set up a big research and innovation centre in Palo Alto because we want to collaborate with and participate in that environment.”
Ford, which made record profits of $10.8bn last year, says that “Level 4” driverless cars, which can drive autonomously in a pre-defined area, will be available by the end of the decade.
“The global auto industry will continue to grow and the reason it will grow is you will see the global middle class double in the next 15 years,” Fields added.
“You could argue that in major urban areas there could be a lower density of vehicles, either because it’s regulated out by the various legislatures or it’s too expensive. As we stand back and we look at the overall approach, it’s one in which I think you will see some parts of the world actually tighten regulations on ‘personal use vehicles’ in down town city areas.”
(Picture – BBC)