Bill Ford predicts 'radical transformation' of auto industry

Bill Ford: "Henry Ford redefined mobility for average people, and we have the opportunity to do the same now."

Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford sees a bright -- albeit remodeled -- future for the automotive industry, according to an op-ed story he authored in The Wall Street Journal.

As part of the newspaper’s 125th anniversary of its first issue today, national figures gave their predictions on where the world is moving. While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the daunting task of bringing the globe online and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers wrote on the grim future of jobs in the face of technological advances, Ford called for a fundamental change in the role of the automotive industry.

“Forward-looking companies will redefine themselves and move from being just car and truck manufacturers to become personal-mobility companies,” he wrote.

According to Ford, the automotive industry must begin to view itself as part of the larger field of transportation. At the same time, transportation itself is transforming, with the emergence of alternative-fuel and electric vehicles, connected and self-driving vehicles and ride-sharing services.

Ford’s company has been involved in such efforts, from partnering in the connected car-testing Mobility Transformation Center at the University of Michigan to producing the first aluminum-bodied pickup later this year. The company has also been going through some transformations itself, with new CEO Mark Fields taking over for Alan Mulally last week.

“Henry Ford redefined mobility for average people, and we have the opportunity to do the same now,” Ford wrote in the op-ed.

The gradual transition to the automotive future hasn’t been completely smooth -- this June, the company had to relabel mpg estimates for the second time in a year on hybrids and other models. But Ford’s vision goes past improving existing fuel economy to completely retooling the car.

“No matter how clean and efficient vehicles are, we simply cannot depend on selling more of them as they function today,” he wrote.

Ford said the challenge of fundamental redefinition has the potential to be a boon for the entire industry, creating a “$130 billion business opportunity.”

“The next 20 years will see a radical transformation of our industry,” he wrote, “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.”

You can reach Katie Burke at -- Follow Katie on Twitter: @KatieGBurke



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