Journalists from around the world traveled to Dearborn in June 2012 to examine the key trends influencing Ford. Five key trends were explored: technology, design, eco-psychology, urbanization and DIY. Ford brought together leaders in each field to discuss their perspectives on these key issues.
The event kicked off at Ford Field with a keynote from David Kirkpatrick and Bill Ford. Kirkpatrick, best-selling author of The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World and Founder and CEO of Techonomy Media, and Bill Ford, Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company, spoke candidly about the past, present and future of Ford Motor Company.
Bill Ford was an environmental pioneer in the automotive industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when such views were not as widely accepted as they are today. Bill Ford, however, stayed true to his goal to make Ford Motor Company a leader in sustainable technology and fuel innovation, which is reflected in the current product line. From the new Focus Electric, which does not run on gasoline, to the availability of the EcoBoost engine on many popular models, Ford has become a leader in putting fuel efficient models into the hands of its consumers.
Some drivers may not realize it, but Ford is also driving sustainable technology. Henry Ford once made a car entirely from soybeans because he saw the potential that they held as a resource; some of today’s Ford vehicles now have seats that are made with soybeans.
In addition, many other parts are fabricated with natural materials so that petroleum-based plastics are becoming a thing of the past. Who knew that it was possible to make automotive parts from out-of-circulation, shredded currency?
During the session on technology, which included John Hendricks of Microsoft and Gary Clayton of Nuance Communications, the panelists discussed the importance of evolving technology in vehicles. One of the key aspects that will be part of upcoming developments is the multi-function device that promotes more natural interaction. This involves the recognition of more natural speech and gestures, since conversations rarely involve one-word commands and hitting a button.
For Ford vehicles, the key to advances in technology, such as SYNC®, are the fundamental belief that drivers are safer when their hands are on the wheel and their eyes are on the road. New technologies are being developed to work with drivers to detect stress levels to ensure that technology doesn’t become a distraction. In addition, the next step for SYNC will be a more natural conversation with your car and the integration of more commonly used apps by utilizing the cloud in Applink™.
The design panel focused on the age of accessible design. Panelists were: Ari Goldberg, CEO and Founder of StyleCaster Media Group; Adam Kalkin, artist and architect; Gretchen Gscheidle of Herman Miller; and, Christian Siriano, designer. A notable discussion focused on the democratization of design: bringing luxury design to a broader audience without a premium price. Things need to function, but they must also look good.
During the design process, Ford looks at every aspect of its design. From virtual reality engineering to sound simulators, each vehicle is considered from every possible angle. Ford designs with a conscience, but consumers want their cars to look good. This type of consideration was key in the design of the 2013 Fusion, which will be available in hybrid and plug-in versions. Design is key and a factor that will always be at the forefront of the automotive industry.
The eco-psychology session looked at the Butterfly Effect theory – how small changes can affect larger, sometimes unrelated, systems. Panelists for this session included: Adrian Grenier and Peter Glatzer, filmmakers and co-founders of SHFT.com; Liz Heller of TOMS; Tim Sexton, co-founder of E2; and, eco-psychologist Cher Fischer. The key to the Butterfly Effect is that small changes now can lead to larger areas down the road.
For Ford, the key is reducing negative impacts on the environment. Small design innovations can lead to long-term results. Simple things like aerodynamics result in reduced friction and drag, which increase fuel efficiency. The photo below shows the aerodynamic design of the 2013 Fusion through smoke in a wind tunnel.
One important issue to Bill Ford in the scope of environmentalism is global gridlock and how do we improve the conditions in urban areas. The urbanization panel included urbanization expert Carol Coletta and Gretchen Effgen from Zipcar. It is anticipated that there will be 4 billion cars on the road around the world by 2050, so the needs of the world population as it relates to automobiles are changing.
Ford is developing new technology that will assist drivers in avoiding traffic jams. In addition, Ford helps drivers in urban areas parallel park hands-free with Active Park Assist technology. Ford also recognizes Zipcar’s initiatives for car-sharing programs, which are popular options in urban settings.
The final trend for the conference was DIY and it wasn’t addressed by a panel like the previous topics. Attendees actively participated in activities at TechShop Detroit, which provides its members with tools, equipment and instruction so that they can make and build things. As TechShop’s CEO, Mark Hatch stated, “When you give the tools of the Industrial Revolution to the creative class, they can change the world.”
Each trend can be considered singularly; however, when considered as a whole from the perspective of Ford, the following can easily be stated: Ford is driving the market as an innovator, from design to eco-consciousness, but its focus remains on providing the best product to the consumer.
Danielle Liss is the Chief Marketing Officer of FitFluential. She is a lawyer, speaker and blogger at Kitten a Go-Go. Danielle lives in Las Vegas and is patiently counting the days until she can have a 2013 Fusion. You can follow Danielle on Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+ and Facebook.