Thursday 18 January 2018

Exclusive: Ford chief executive says car giant doesn't want to 'become next Nokia'

Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

The chief executive of Ford says that the car giant does not want to become the next Nokia and that it intends to resist moves to “commoditise” car manufacturing.

Speaking to at the CES technology show in Las Vegas, Mark Fields said that the car industry was at a crossroads as Silicon Valley companies like Google and Apple try to “disrupt” the traditional automotive industry.

“We are very aware of what happened in the entertainment business and a lot of Silicon Valley companies have set their sights on the auto industry,” said Mr Fields.

“We don’t want to become like a handset manufacturer. We do not want to be like Nokia was. If you look at what can happen, other companies focus on the experience and the value-added elements and then the hardware becomes commoditised, it and has a lower value. We’re very aware of that.”

Apple is believed to be planning its own electric car, while Google is investing in systems such as dashboard entertainment and connectivity that would take over more of a vehicle’s in-car experience.

“This really is an inflection point for the industry,” said Mr Fields. “But we look at this as an opportunity not a threat. We’re open to partnerships. In some cases there are things that we want to keep core. In other cases, we can look at partnerships.”

He said that new generations may soon look to for “access” to vehicles rather than “ownership”.

“We’re moving from being an auto company to being a mobility company,” he said. “You’ll see us aggressively going after emerging mobility services from now on.”

Mr Fields was speaking against the backdrop of a new move to self-driving cars and greater dependence on automation in vehicles.

Plans from Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen for a new generation of autonomous vehicles vary from assisted driving to complete self-navigating cars that need no human input while moving.

The technology would allow someone with diminished or no driving ability to safely and legally use a car to move along ordinary Irish roads.

Mr Fields said that autonomous vehicles would be “affordable” and “not just for wealthy people”.

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