Creating socially responsible corporations that help to make 'a better world' is the auto industry's most important job in the 21st century, industrial scion William Clay Ford Jr. said.
Among changes in the industry will be a decreasing reliance on the internal combustion engine, said Ford, chairman of Ford Motor Co. and great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford.
Indeed, hybrid vehicles, powered by electric motors combined with small, fuel-efficient internal combustion engines, could account for 20 percent of new vehicle sales within 10 years, Ford said in a speech to the Automotive News World Congress. But eventually, fuel cells will replace the internal combustion engine, he said.
'In the near term, hybrids will make the first substantial inroads into the market. That's a major business opportunity,' Ford said. 'Longer term, I believe fuel cells will finally end the 100-year reign of the internal combustion engine as the dominant source of power for personal transportation.'
SCOFF AND SUFFER
Customers increasingly want to do business with corporations providing cleaner and safer products, Ford said. Businesses that scoff, dismissing the issue as a passing fad, will suffer, he said.
Consumers will buy from corporations that 'get it,' Ford said. 'In our case, that means personal mobility with no social or environmental trade-offs.'
Ford has made corporate social responsibility and environmental sensitivity the major tenets of his administration since becoming chairman a year ago.
For example, this month Ford Motor Co. unveiled a new environmentally conscious Th!nk brand, devoted to creating earth-friendly vehicles and to developing and commercializing fuel cell technology. In 2003, Ford will introduce a version of the Ford Prodigy, a hybrid-electric family sedan that achieves 80 mpg.
HIGHER GAS TAX?
Increasingly, the industry will reduce waste as automobiles become 'technical nutrients,' Ford said.
'That means it is built as an automobile. It is disassembled. The parts are reused and it is reused as an automobile,' he said.
'I do believe we are literally going to see a cradle-to-grave type of industry develop in the very, very near term.'
Responding to a question from the audience, Ford said the company would consider supporting a gasoline-tax increase 'within reason.'
'This is something most people don't realize. They think because I am environmentally driven that I would support regulations,' he said.
'But I don't believe government-imposed anything is a good idea. The government ought to give us incentives and let us figure out how to go do those.'