It's hardly a secret that the auto industry is undergoing an enormous, tectonic shift in the way it thinks, builds cars and does business. Between alternative forms of energy, a renewed focus on low curb weights and aerodynamic bodies, the advent of driverless and autonomous cars and the need to reduce the our impact on the environment, it's very likely that the car that's built 10 years down the line will be scarcely recognizable when parked next to the car from 10 years ago.

Few people are as able to explain the industry's many upcoming changes and challenges as clearly as William Clay Ford, Jr., better known as Bill Ford. The 57-year-old currently sits as the executive chairman of the company his great-grandfather, Henry Ford, founded over 110 years ago.

In an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Ford explains that the role of automakers is, necessarily, going to change to suit the needs of the future world. That means changing the view of not just the automobile, but the automaker. As Ford explains it, automakers will "move from being just car and truck manufacturers to become personal-mobility companies."

That's going to mean building cars that are better integrated with the transport system, which of course, means increased connectivity. That seems to be Ford's biggest point here – the analog days of motoring are dead and waiting to be buried, as we prepare for a world where our cars talk to each other and the world around us, all in a bid to improve the life of the driver, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and those on public transport. Other big changes are more predictable – expanded use of aluminum, high-strength steel and carbon fiber as part of a push towards increased fuel efficiency are also part of Ford's vision of our automotive future.

In all, Ford's op-ed provides a fascinating look at what one of the industry's biggest names thinks of the automobile's future, with a particular focus on how it will affect you and I as the world continues to change, evolve and grow. The entire piece is available at The Wall Street Journal's site, and is a highly recommended read.


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  • 38 Comments
      Cruising
      • 5 Months Ago
      He might be referring to pod cars, just go to Google Images and search personal mobility. Pod cars that are V2V capable and some autonomous functions all connected to one giant network.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Bill is an idiot. They have developed and redesigned cars. They chose this road when they stopped building semi trucks and got out of the school bus business. Brain dead Ford stopped making Crown Vics for cops and taxis cause they only made $7500 profit on them. I read that on a Ford site. But thankfully for Henry Ford that Ford didn't take Obama's handout.
        Larry Litmanen
        • 5 Months Ago
        I will agree with you that Ford is a moron, but if you really look at what Mullaly did in detail and without a bias..............he did not do a good job. Design (something Mullaly is not in charge of) is spot on, every new Ford looks great, but recalls, quality is way down. My Lord the Escape was recalled like 4 times in first 2 months on sale. My ford touch is still broken. Focus Tranny. When Mullaly was at Boeing he was in charge of 787, it was a $4.5 B project that ended up costing nearly 4 times that, huge delays, parts issues and all. Mullaly likes to push the tech.............but does not pay enough attention to the quality of the product.
      express2day
      • 5 Months Ago
      These statements, predictions, etc. from top level industry executives too often end up being wrong and not really materializing. Back in the early 1960s another Ford, Henry Ford II, was predicting major changes to the industry and even that Ford and other car manufacturers would be building family vehicles for space travel within 50 years. Obviously didn't happen. 50 years later, Ford was building Ford Expeditions but certainly not Ford MOON Expeditions.
      Levine Levine
      • 5 Months Ago
      Bill Ford, the former idiot CEO of Ford who also destroyed the company. But for the fact he was born into wealth, his thinking ability would have netted him a leading role in Jerry Springer's white trailer trash. His is the result of too much in-breeding.
        BodyBlue
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Levine Levine
        You are the biggest idiot/troll. Nasser is the one that almost destroyed Ford with his buying up of other makes. When Bill Ford took over he realized that he needed someone better than him and got the finest auto exec in history, Alan Mulally.
          Levine Levine
          • 5 Months Ago
          @BodyBlue
          BodyBlue: Bill Ford almost sank the company after taken over the helm from his daddy. Despite his glaring mismanagement for nearly a decade, he refused to step down for years. He ignored family and friends who recommended his stepping aside for years. As Ford near bankruptcy and the value of the Ford family's holding of special preferred shares risks becoming worthless, his own family begged him to retire and recruit someone more capable. Just once Bill Ford set aside his arrogance. Alan Mullany (sic) from Boeing became his successor. In his mid 20s Billy Ford nagged Daddy for a management position at Ford HQ. Daddy said to him he knows nothing about the auto business and needed on the job training. Billy was indignant and refused, responded with hemming and hawing. He later caved in and worked in a Ford warehouse for a few years. At a Ford shareholder meeting, Billy got up and addressed the shareholders and Board explaining why he should be given a high management position at Ford. Daddy Ford stood up and basically told Billy to shut up and sit-down. When old man Daddy Ford retire nearly 20 years later, arrogant Billy assumed the helm.
      bcsaxman
      • 5 Months Ago
      Dear Mr. Bill Ford Jr. Argh. Attitudes like this will be the death of me. I do not want, nor do I need, a car that is interconnected with the rest of the world. That is a world without privacy from others, and of constant surveillance (read: "tickets" or "revenue enhancement") by Big Brother and his 50 Little Brothers. And if solving the congestion problems in cities is keeping you up at night, let me suggest Ambien. I live within 2hrs drive of 3 major cities and 1 or 2 minor ones, go to them all often enough to know, and it's really not that big a deal. If you want to improve efficiency, fine. Start using more carbon fiber reinforced plastic. Start using Gorilla Glass. Start using friction reducing coatings on all metal-to-metal surfaces and bearings, like the firearms industry has been using for years. Start selling diesel engines that don't cost an arm and a leg (and don't yank my chain about cost - they're no more complex than gas motors). And give me a 7 speed manual transmission option on all cars you make. Stop/Start? Fine - as long as I can override it so that the car will start for me even when the electronic control stops working. How about offering cheaper & lighter radios and HVAC systems, instead of the bloated MyFordLincolnWhatever that is barely usable and way too expensive. Now, remember, you started this conversation with efficiency as one of your main points - well, efficient use of my dollars is just as important as efficient use of fuel. The 2 year old phone currently in my pocket is a more advanced GPS, communicator, and entertainment device than what your company is currently pushing out the factory doors. Stop chasing your collective tail with these short sighted attempts at wooing the Internet Generation by trying to make automobiles into just another digital device. The Internet Generation is holding off buying cars NOT because they need another computer, but because cars are TOO DAMN EXPENSIVE. All the infotainment tech and over-automation of the entire driving experience is driving the price of a new car or truck through the stratosphere. That's one part of the problem. And btw - the InterGens don't make as much money as their parents did at the same stage of life. Notice the older union workers getting paid more per hour then the new hires in your plants (and GM's, and Chrysler's too)? That's the other part of the problem. Maybe do something about that. Otherwise, build a great driving, light-weight, diesel car or truck, that a $30k/year person can afford. That's the mass market of the future. And if you already are building awesome vehicles elsewhere - such as Ranger in Asia, and practically everything you sell in Europe - then for God's sake just bring them here. We will buy them. Trust us. Will what's asked for above be easy? No. But that's (ostensibly) why people in your position make the big bucks. Figure it out. The real question is, will it be better than the new car future you describe? Absolutely.
      vendelavee
      • 5 Months Ago
      The auto industry efforts at fuel efficiency are a joke. Just bought a new SUV last year with a 3.6 liter 6 cylinder engine. It gets 14 MPG. I had been driving a used 20 year old van with a 3.3 liter 6 cylinder engine in it and was getting 13 MPG. So in 20 years the fuel efficiency for that sized vehicle and engine increased ONE MPG! Wow! No wonder they can't can't come up with a decent, reliable and long distance electric vehicle.
        Spec
        • 5 Months Ago
        @vendelavee
        Well YOU BOUGHT IT. You are the reason they are not improving efficiency fast enough.
        • 5 Months Ago
        @vendelavee
        I got 2012 f-150 5.0 it gets 26 mpg at 50-55 mph and has power when you need it
      raughle1
      • 5 Months Ago
      In the world's cities we've long since passed the point where cars as we know them today make sense for personal travel. Even as a diehard car enthusiast I can see this pretty clearly. If an alien species came to earth and saw that we require 4000 pounds of manually-operated metal and an entire gallon of mined fossil fuel to move one 180-pound human 30 or 40 kilometers, they'd probably conclude that there's no intelligent life on this planet. Even more so if they showed up in Atlanta or Houston at rush hour. That said, things never change as quickly as people expect. I bet people in less dense rural areas will get around much as they do today still for another full generation or two. It's far too soon to write the obit for the automobile.
      Winnie Jenkems
      • 5 Months Ago
      I can't even pretend to comprehend WTF Mr. Ford has just said here. "Personal mobility" means nothing to me. I just want to drive a great car. Mr. Ford, for the love of God, build a RWD Lincoln. A game changing flagship. Build it in the style of the glorious '60s Continental. Put the 5.0 in it. Craft a class leading interior. Wood, leather, metal. Build the car that will get people talking about Lincoln again. Remember how Lexus came into its own with the LS400? Yes, it cost a billion dollars to develop. It was a loss leader. It was a marketing tool. It got people talking about Lexus, and it got them in the showrooms. It made the Germans **** their pants as it stole their sales. Then it surpassed their sales. And it got people to buy a million rebadged FWD Camrys for $5000 more than they would have cost at the Toyota dealership. Do it, Ford. Make Lincoln great again. Give us something to talk about.
        Nowae Amigivingittwo
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Winnie Jenkems
        Indeed, they have the 15 Mustang platform now so what's the problem. Oh and make a less expensive one as a Ford Galaxie. Jeez they had their chance with the Aussie Falcon platform but didn't have a clue.
      Larry Litmanen
      • 5 Months Ago
      By BILL FORD During the past decade, the automotive industry emerged from one of the most challenging periods we have ever encountered, and has now entered one of the most exciting and promising times in our history. Yet, even more important is our focus on the future, which will be defined by an important trend: the automobile as part of a larger ecosystem. This requires a change in our view of the car as an individual object to seeing it as part of our broader transportation network. It also requires a fundamental change in how we think about transportation. Customers today have extremely diverse priorities, and we must embrace these differences as we design and sell automobiles. The facts that underpin this trend are compelling. With a growing global population and greater prosperity, the number of vehicles on the road could exceed two billion by midcentury. Combine this with a continuing population shift toward cities, with a projected 54% of the global population in cities by 2050, and it becomes clear that our current transportation model is not sustainable. Our infrastructure cannot support such a large volume of vehicles without creating massive congestion that would have serious consequences for our environment, health, economic progress and quality of life. Challenge—and Opportunity The good news is that this scenario is not inevitable, and some experts say this challenge represents a $130 billion business opportunity for the automotive market. Some solutions already are under way to develop more space-efficient vehicles with clean engines that run on gas or alternative energy sources. Yet other answers will require a fundamental rethinking of what the business of being an auto manufacturer looks like. No matter how clean and efficient vehicles are, we simply cannot depend on selling more of them as they function today. Cars will need to be smarter and more integrated into the overall transportation system. Forward-looking companies will redefine themselves and move from being just car and truck manufacturers to become personal-mobility companies. We will be thinking more intelligently about how the vehicles we build interact with one another and with a city's infrastructure, which includes trains, pedestrian walkways, buses, bikes and everything else that helps us move through urban centers. Rapidly changing preferences among car owners, including an ever-increasing emphasis on connectivity, will redefine the types of vehicles we bring to market, the features we focus on and how vehicles are marketed and used.
        Larry Litmanen
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Larry Litmanen
        New Ownership Models The rise of companies such as Lyft, Uber and Zipcar underlines individual ownership as not always being the most cost-effective way to obtain access to a vehicle, especially for urban customers. Individual ownership also may not be the primary model of vehicle ownership in the future. Just how this affects the current sales model is yet to be seen. Cars of the future will be mobile communications platforms that talk to each other and the world around them to make driving safer and more efficient. They will be integrated into the transportation ecosystem in ways that optimize the entire system, with software that allows owners to increasingly customize features and functions. We already are in the early stages of this transformation, with wireless communication, infotainment systems and limited functions for automated driving and parking. Continuing to meet consumer demand for greater efficiency also will require more than just changes to engines and energy sources. New materials and manufacturing processes will reshape auto manufacturers and the suppliers we have worked with for decades. Aluminum and high-strength steel will evolve as the materials that serve as the backbone of the industry. Carbon fiber will move from the realm of race cars and million-dollar exotics into small cars and crossovers. This will require rethinking the life-cycle supply chain. Redefining Driving We also will need to rethink what defines the act of driving. Autonomous driving, or cars that navigate themselves, will be possible, and in certain situations, common practice. We already are seeing some of this make its way into vehicles to provide safer and easier driving. As these technologies develop, we expect they significantly will extend the useful driving life of individuals and offer new opportunities for the physically challenged. Some entrepreneurs are even pushing current boundaries further by exploring the feasibility of flying cars. While these would require significant regulatory development to become a viable option, they do provide a glimpse of what our future of mobility may look like. All of this serves as the backdrop to how we think about Ford Motor Co. today. Henry Ford redefined mobility for average people, and we have the opportunity to do the same now. The next 20 years will see a radical transformation of our industry, 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.
      Revis Goodworth
      • 5 Months Ago
      I'll keep my simple 1997 Escort that AVERAGES 45.2 mpgs over the last 9000 miles (since new tires) and recently turned in a 53.5 mpg highway trip. The car is exactly as I want - a radio, power steering and brakes, and A/C. With this car being an August 1996 build (one of the first 1997's), I have been so impressed and blessed - 160,000 trouble free miles except for replacing worn parts and preventive maintenance and it runs and looks like a new car. Ford can't build a better car for me - I own one. And I want nothing of the electronic infested things that are out there now.
        vendelavee
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Revis Goodworth
        I agree. They are making 4 wheel entertainment systems and "space shuttles" now not cars. Their marketing is all about the electronics and gadgets the car has, not about it's reliability, performance and cost to operate and maintain. They are becoming so complicated that the slightest problem costs a fortune to have it fixed. No do it yourself repairs anymore. Remember when electronics started having the "no user servicable parts inside" statement put on the back? That now applies to automobiles. They have taken a simple device that has functioned and served us well, and complicated the hell out of it in the name of progress.
      Brodz
      • 5 Months Ago
      "we can't just build and sell more of the same cars.". You mean like Lincoln, hey Billy?
      FordGo
      • 5 Months Ago
      I just wish Ford would have more commitment to more and better hybrids and plug in's. Also, "Quality is Job 1" needs to come back.
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