Ford has Formed a ‘Smart Mobility’ Division
originally posted on USA today
Ford Motor has created a new subsidiary devoted to advancing transportation technologies and business models involving ride-sharing services, autonomous cars and vehicle connectivity.
The company said Friday that it had created Ford Smart Mobility LLC and that former Steelcase CEOJim Hackett had resigned from his spot on the Ford board to lead the new division as chairman.
The move reflects Ford’s latest bid to tackle the emerging market for mobility solutions that de-emphasize the traditional relationship between riders and their vehicles.
The company has invested in a car-sharing program in London, launched autonomous vehicle tests in several states and introduced various app-based technologies designed to link smartphones and vehicles.
The Ford Smart Mobility unit will “design and build mobility services on its own and collaborate with start-ups and tech companies,” Ford said in a statement.
But it will also collaborate with Ford’s existing engineers and researchers to “develop commercially ready mobility services and invest in promising mobility-related ventures,” Ford said.
The announcement came at the same time that General Motors revealed it had acquired San Francisco-based self-driving software start-up Cruise Automation with plans to make it an independent subsidiary.
Taken together, the efforts reflect the Detroit auto industry’s bid to keep pace as tech giants Google, Apple, Tesla Motors, Uber and Lyft — not to mention foreign automakers — rapidly invest in new transportation business models and technologies.
Ford executive chairman Bill Ford Jr. has been saying for years that the company must turn its attention toward a new way of thinking, emphasizing that Ford is a mobility company first and a car company second.
Industry analysts say the auto industry must quickly adapt to new business models under the assumption that in the future many consumers may choose to pay for autonomous rides through mobile apps instead of owning their own vehicles.
“Ensuring the freedom of mobility requires us to continually look beyond the needs of today and interpret what mobility will mean to future generations,” Ford Jr. said in a statement. “This new subsidiary will enable us to develop mobility solutions to address the rapidly changing transportation challenges of an increasingly crowded world.”
In selecting Hackett, the company emphasized his experience as a “global innovator” at Steelcase, where he “helped transform the company from a traditional office furniture manufacturer” into a firm that foresaw the shift toward more open office environments.
Hackett, who recently served as interim athletics director at the University of Michiganwhile the school sought a permanent leader, will report to Ford CEO Mark Fields.