DETROIT — Ford Motor Co.'s failure to close a deal with Google in early 2016 helped bring Mark Fields' tenure as CEO to an end.
Five years later, a different type of tie-up with the tech giant secured by CEO Jim Farley could be just the beginning.
A sweeping six-year partnership announced last week will give Ford access to Google's cloud technologies for use in its factories, dealerships and vehicles as the automaker rolls out data-rich connected services. Ford also will use Google's Android operating system to power the infotainment on millions of vehicles starting in 2023, and it's forming a team to explore future collaborations.
It's an early win under Farley for an automaker often chided by Wall Street for a lack of flashy announcements, hailed by one analyst as a "step in the right direction" that could generate billions in revenue. The Google deal and a subsequent commitment last week that nearly doubles Ford's investment in electrification to $22 billion through 2025 offer a peek into Farley's strategy: invest in expanding and updating the well-established subbrands within Ford's lineup while leaving costly, time-consuming commodity work to others. Investors so far have responded, with the long-stagnant stock up more than 70 percent in the four months since he took charge.
"We want our team working on things that will differentiate us," Farley said last week on Ford's fourth-quarter earnings call. "It's a fundamental approach; the technology partners are becoming more and more important for us to deliver that digital experience and build the capability within our company. We don't have all the answers. These companies can really help us and we can help them."