“With a growing global population and greater prosperity, the number of vehicles on the road could exceed two billion by midcentury. Combine this with a continuing population shift toward cities, with a projected 54% of the global population in cities by 2050, and it becomes clear that our current transportation model is not sustainable. Our infrastructure cannot support such a large volume of vehicles without creating massive congestion that would have serious consequences for our environment, health, economic progress and quality of life.” — Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Co.
Bill Ford’s comments, which you’ve just read, were featured recently in The Wall Street Journal’s 125th anniversary issue where leaders were asked to predict what’s coming up. Ford is in a unique position in the auto industry – being the great-grandson of Henry Ford, who “redefined mobility for average people,” along with articulating bold, forward-thinking ideas on where automakers need to go in the next 20 years. Bill Ford understands the inner working and challenges faced by global automakers in moving forward, along with the market dynamics that will likely cause automakers to transform their identities.
Ford Motor Co. has been on the front lines with these issues – whether that be through having to clean up another miles-per-gallon overstatement, or producing lightweight aluminum-body pickup trucks and selling more hybrids and plug-in hybrids. Bill Ford sees the landscape changing overall for the global auto industry in addressing these potential solutions………
- Space-efficient vehicles that run on gasoline or alternative energy sources.
- Beyond the energy fueling the vehicles, Ford says that using materials and manufacturing processes committed to sustainability are very important. Aluminum is a good example, as is carbon fiber, in approaching the life-cycle supply chain from a new perspective.
- Rethinking the role of vehicles in transportation – making them “smarter and more integrated into the overall transportation system.” OEMs will no longer be just car and truck makers, but will redefine themselves as “personal-mobility companies.”
- Cars will need to be able to interact with each other in a city’s infrastructure, networking with other transportation modes like trains, buses, and bikes.
- Ridesharing and carsharing companies like Lyft, Uber, and Zipcar symbolize a major shift in thinking – from individual ownership to transportation alternatives.
- Bill Ford is a believer in connectivity – with “wireless communication, infotainment systems and limited functions for automated driving and parking” being of much importance.
- Autonomous driving is becoming possible, and is already starting to show up in technology features making cars safer and easier to drive. Beyond completely driverless cars, Ford says that some entrepreneurs are looking into the feasibility of flying cars.
- The auto industry has entered a new phase in its history. “The next 20 years will see a radical transformation of our industry, and will present many new ways of ensuring that my great-grandfather’s dream of opening the highways for all mankind will remain alive and well in the 21st century and beyond,” Ford wrote.