“Transportation in the world today is on the cusp of a major revolution.” –Jim Hackett, chairman of Ford Smart Mobility LLC, in Ford’s announcement of this new venture
“The world is becoming more crowded and urbanized, air quality is a global issue, and customer preferences are changing rapidly. The Ford Smart Mobility plan was established…to address these trends and to make people’s lives better.” —Ford Smart Mobility LLC press release
Ford is leading the auto industry in becoming more than about selling cars. They’re adapting to the changing circumstances of our times by opening up to a more inclusive concept of mobility, akin to traditional energy companies investing in renewables. This evolution of business strategy is about responding to social demands, staying relevant, and getting out on the leading edge. According to George Will’s column in the Washington Post, car ownership is declining among young U.S. adults and Americans are driving less. The average new car loan is huge, $28,000. China is the largest market for new cars now, surpassing the U.S. and Europe.
The smart mobility concept follows Silicon Valley’s approach to technology. Like social media technology serves to develop human conversation and increase sharing, mobility is being seen as a way to better connect human communities. Before joining Ford, Jim Hackett, Ford Mobility’s chairman, was involved in shifting office environments from isolated cubicles to an open space system where employees had more freedom to choose where they worked, more stimulating social interactions, and increased opportunities for learning and collaboration.
As we evolve mobility in America, it is important to connect our changing experience with the world. In China, the lure of the car as a status symbol seems as powerful as it was here in the 1950’s. In a NY Times article, a Chinese consumer explains that life without a car is viewed as intolerable. “It’s so that we don’t have to walk,” he said. But we know cars work best as part of a broad and diverse portfolio of transportation choices. For sustainability, cars have to compliment the most intelligent, simple and efficient transportation systems we know of, walking and bicycling. And focus on giving everyone access to economic opportunity, social mobility, and healthier lives. Communities with examples of how to do this will be in high demand and positioned to have a profound impact on shared prosperity on a global scale.
Automakers Expanding in China May Soon Face Weakening Demand, by Keith Bradsher,
NYTimes, March 28
Car Automakers Redefine Mobility Again? by George F. Will, Washington Post, March 23
Ford Smart Mobility LLC Established to Develop, Invest in Mobility Services; Jim Hackett Named Subsidiary Chairman, in Ford Media, March 11, 2016, Dearborn, Michigan