TEL AVIV, Israel — Ford Motor Executive Chairman Bill Ford said the automaker will rely on startups much more than in its past as it attempts to navigate challenges to its traditional business.
Speaking at the 7th annual EcoMotion mobility conference here on Tuesday, Ford said the company was attempting to change its way of thinking and admit that it doesn't always have the answers.
"We don't have to be the disruptor," he told a standing-room only crowd of more than 400 people. "We have to encourage disruptors and partner with them. Any corporation that thinks it has all the answers is either A, arrogant or B, ignorant. There's no way."
Ford in recent years has tried to make itself more attractive to startups. It launched a Ford X business incubator last year, and is currently renovating an iconic train station in downtown Detroit that it plans to use as the focal point of an autonomous and electrification campus that will bring in other suppliers and young companies.
"Our traditional suppliers are not going to be able to help us lead in innovation; some of them can, but some of them can't," Ford told Automotive News after his speech. "Our needs are so different now than they were five years ago even."
The automaker is expected to formally open an r&d center in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to help tap into the region's booming mobility startup scene.
"We're going to need lots and lots of partnerships," Ford said. "One thing I'm really insisting upon is that our management doesn't act like we're the center of the universe, because we're not."
Separately, Ford reiterated the automaker was on track to deploy its autonomous vehicles for commercial purposes in 2021, but stressed it was taking a methodical approach to bringing them to market.
"We can't be, like so many software things, only 70 percent right and fix it on the fly," he said. "We're dealing with peoples' lives. We have to be absolutely sure these things are ready for prime time in all conditions."
Still, Ford said the company is operating with a sense of urgency to solve peoples' mobility needs with new types of services.
"If we don't anticipate those demands and stay ahead of them, then we're going to be consigned to the dustbin of history," he said. "And that doesn't interest me at all."