Seeing Tesla Motors in its early phases was a life-changing moment for Bill Ford Jr., The chairman of the Ford Motor Company.
“It made me even more impatient,” Ford, 58 years old, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview last week, further noting that seeing what Tesla was doing made him realize “the winds of change were coming.”
And Ford is determined not to let those winds knock down the company his family has run for over 100 years — and as such is exploring partnerships, acquisitions and even car use and ownership models different from those of the past.
“To me, it’s a way to reinvent this company that makes it incredibly relevant for the next 50 years,” said Ford, who has been chairman since 1999. “If we did nothing, we could be consigned over time to an ever-dwindling number of traditional car and truck buyers.”
Ford is profitable today – and low fuel prices have been especially good for the auto maker’s SUV and truck lines – but nonetheless Ford is thinking past today’s success and looking to a world where cars aren’t running on gas at all. And Ford needs to be ready for the change. Right now, investors aren’t convinced that it (or any of the big three American auto makers) are ready to jump into the future. Tesla’s stocks are on fire, and Ford stock has stalled, despite big sales figures.
But Ford is ready to be relevant. The auto maker is in talks with Alphabet to tie the iconic car brand to Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is also the home of Ford’s recent tech efforts, which may in the future include a business unit dedicated entirely to autonomous cars for use in ride-sharing and fleets.
Ford would develop software for steering or braking, while Google would create autonomous-driving AI that governs those functions, according to some sources.
Google has no official comment, and Ford, in the person of its CEO Mark Fields, has been vague.
“We are open to all possibilities,” Fields told WSJ.