NEW YORK - Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields opened the New York International Auto Show Wednesday with a "Back to the Future" themed keynote speech highlighting the tremendous benefits of innovation over the years. Read his remarks below to learn which new technologies are on the horizon for Ford.
Click here to watch video of the Ford press conference at the New York International Auto Show.
It’s great to be back in New York, where I grew up, to mark the opening of this year’s show. For all of us who have a passion for cars, it’s fantastic to see so many new vehicles being unveiled here this year. It underscores what an incredibly exciting time it is to be in the auto industry.
We’d like to start this morning by going back to another exciting time, a time when all eyes were on the Big Apple.
It began 50 years ago this month, as more than 51 million people from around the world packed into Flushing Meadows Park in Queens.
I was there, too.
While only 4 years old, I can remember my dad showing us some of the most exciting exhibits. My mom, who is here this morning, still has home movies and very fond memories of our time there as a family.
What’s striking about the 1964 World’s Fair is that many of the innovations we saw there were phenomenally successful, and are still with us today. As you saw, IBM was there, showing new ideas in character recognition and giving the public the chance to personally interact with a computer for the very first time. Disney was there, wowing visitors with pioneering animatronics, an elevated roadway for Ford’s Magic Skyway, and the hugely popular It’s a Small World display that later moved to Disneyland.
And Ford was there, too, with the introduction of Mustang – an entirely new class of vehicle, with two doors, design flair and a long list of options. My dad lifted me on his shoulders to get a look at the new Mustang. I didn’t realize the significance of what I was seeing at the time, but by the size of the crowd, I could tell it was a big deal.
Without a doubt, the 1964 World’s Fair was one of the biggest showcases of innovation ever seen. And it was clear then, as it is now, that innovation is driven by individuals, and by companies, who look beyond commonly held beliefs to find new ways and to defy constraints to accomplish three things.
•First, they understand the reality that the world will change
•Next, they anticipate how that change will affect consumers
•And finally, they anticipate consumers’ spoken wants and unspoken needs
Now, if you master all three, the reward is not only massive business growth, but the chance to change the world.
After the World’s Fair, IBM sales skyrocketed. In 1966 alone, the company hired 25,000 new employees and built new manufacturing facilities in the United States and Europe. More importantly, though, IBM changed the world – first with its mainframes and then by helping bring personal computers to the average person.
Similarly, Disney has grown dramatically, from a motion picture company in 1964, to the largest media company in the world today in terms of revenue. Even more so, Disney has made the world a better place – entertaining millions with a sense of wonder and imagination, and bringing families together.
And then there’s Mustang, an instant cultural sensation that became one of the world’s most iconic vehicles, reaching 9 million sales.
Yet beyond the sales numbers, Mustang has made driving a passion, with a spirit of freedom, individuality and affordability that resonates across the United States and throughout the world.
So, as we look back, how is it that so much innovation came on the scene at the same moment in 1964? Was there something unique about that time, something that cranked up the clock speed of innovation?
The United States was in the midst of one of the longest periods of economic prosperity – one not experienced before or since. The race to the moon gave rise to the belief that anything was possible. And consumer sentiment and spending were high, literally driving manufacturing renaissance that fueled innovation.
Today, of course, we live in a very different world. Globalization has made commerce more complex and more dynamic. The United States no longer is the only economic powerhouse. And every day, it seems, is a global exhibition of new ideas – all happening online versus at a world’s fair.
Yet one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the power of innovation and the rewards for those who master it.
Today, just like in 1964, the great innovators are those who do three things very well: They understand, they anticipate and they anticipate again.
Apple, of course, is the classic example. Apple dropped “Computer” from its name when it foresaw the world’s migration to mobile platforms and recognized its customer base was increasingly global. This is why Apple has been earning 75 percent of its revenue from its touch-screen iPhone and iPad, commanding more than half of the tablet market, adding 900 apps each day and building a customer base in 100 countries.
Another example is Zipcar, which has disrupted the car rental model. Zipcar, in many ways, isn’t so much a rental service as it is a company that sells cars one hour at a time. It has made vehicles accessible, convenient and affordable, especially to young people – using smartphone applications.
Since the first Zipcar hit the streets of Boston in 2000, the company has expanded to more than 50 cities across the United States, Canada, Spain and the United Kingdom. It now has 860,000 members, and we continue to see more growth in this hourly industry from others – including Hertz, with its On Demand service, and Enterprise, with its CarShare, along with newer entries such as Carpingo.
Another great innovator is Fitbit.
Building what started with Nike’s FuelBand, Fitbit gives consumers a glimpse into their physical state on a minute-to-minute basis, with the tools they need to change their behavior on-the-fly to promote well-being.
Fitbit anticipated that finding a way to make health data accessible to more people on a daily basis is possible through innovation. And last year, Fitbit claimed 67 percent share of its market.
Closer to home for me, of course, is the innovation underway.
A few years ago, we took a position on fuel efficiency, recognizing the changing world and consumers’ increasing desire for fuel-efficient vehicles. So we moved forward with a big bet, introducing our powerful and efficient EcoBoost engine technology.
EcoBoost delivers better fuel efficiency than larger-displacement gasoline engines – while still delivering all the power and performance of a larger engine. We now have installed EcoBoost in more than 2 million vehicles worldwide, including V6-powered EcoBoost engines as a dominant presence in our F-150 truck lineup.
And that was an idea people thought was crazy just a few years ago.
Another example is SYNC. We were the first automaker to identify the connectivity trend and to anticipate the skyrocketing growth in smartphones – along with the important role connectivity would play in people’s lives. Working with leading tech companies, we introduced SYNC as the first in-car connectivity solution in 2007. And we made it available on our affordable small cars, defying traditional industry convention that you should save new technology for high-end and luxury vehicles.
We’ve now produced more than 10 million vehicles with Ford SYNC, in more than 37 countries around the world.
We also predicted the trend toward personalization. When the app market hit $5 billion in 2010, Ford was ready with SYNC AppLink – a solution for safely and seamlessly integrating apps into the car.
It was in this same spirit that we approached the all-new F-150 pickup being introduced this year. With a vehicle so successful and so important as F-150, it would have been easy to settle for incremental improvements. But as leaders, we committed to change the future of the truck market itself.
This game-changing F-150 advances 65 years of Ford innovation in trucks.
It is loaded with 11 exclusive innovations that offer smart technology and safety. Its high-strength steel frame and high-strength, aluminum-alloy body significantly reduce weight for better capability and gas mileage. We see taking the weight out of vehicles as a major next step – one that will reshape our industry for years to come.
So now, it’s time to look ahead. How can we apply what we’ve learned about innovation, starting with the 1964 World’s Fair, and up through today? One sure bet is that the fundamentals of innovation will guide the way. As we look to 2020 and beyond, there are a number of changes we already can see:
•The global population is growing
•Life expectancies are increasing
•And today’s emerging markets are becoming the epicenter of growth
We are already seeing this in China, once viewed as an emerging market. Today, China is the world’s largest car market – and the world’s largest market for luxury goods. In the next few years, we expect China also could be the largest market for luxury vehicles.
Consider that there are about 7 billion people in the world today. Yet within our lifetime, that number will approach 9 billion. There also are more than 300,000 people over the age of 100 in the world today. By 2050, that number could surpass 2.5 million. Finding ways to design vehicles with these customers in mind will need to be a focus.
This topic of personal mobility is one that our executive chairman, Bill Ford, started talking about three years ago at a TED conference.
Right now, there are about 1 billion vehicles on the road worldwide. And it took roughly 100 years to get to this level. Yet, with more people and greater prosperity, many experts believe that number will double in the next 20 years, and then possibly double again.
So as the world changes, we in the auto industry have a decision to make. We can think like car companies, and view this growth as merely a sales opportunity. Or, we can think like innovators, and as Bill Ford has encouraged, find ways to reduce consumers’ wasted time and resources in traffic and work to avoid the potential for global gridlock. It’s why we at Ford are thinking not just like a car company, but like a mobility company.
We have laid out our Blueprint for Mobility, which spells out the new technologies, the business models and the partnerships we will need to make the world a better place going forward. It includes having on the road today several key building blocks that will lead to one solution for mobility, which is semi- and fully autonomous vehicles.
This includes adaptive cruise control and collision warning, which helps drivers maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. Our lane-keeping aid audibly warns drivers if they’re veering out of a lane, and can even automatically apply steering force in the direction the driver needs to steer. Ford’s active park assist and perpendicular park assist help drivers find parking spaces, and then safely and easily steer into them.
We’re also working with governments and partners around the world on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. And we’re collaborating with several universities and State Farm to explore the future of automated driving and other advanced technologies, including our automated Fusion Hybrid research vehicle.
So to sum it all up, as we reflect today on 50 years since the 1964 World’s Fair, it’s fair to say that it’s “Back to the future.”
What we learned is the most successful among us will be those who continue to look beyond commonly held beliefs to find new ways and to defy constraints. The true innovators among us will understand the reality that the world will continue, and far more dramatically than it has the last 50 years. The true innovators will anticipate, far in advance, exactly how these changes will affect consumers. And the most successful among us will fully anticipate consumers’ spoken wants and even more importantly their unspoken future needs.
As we do all of this, the reward is not only massive business growth, but the chance to change the world.
It reminds me of what Henry Ford said after introducing the Model T, the car that changed the world. When asked about innovation, he said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” A good lesson, one that still rings true today.
Now, speaking of “faster horses,” the Ford team has some more news to share this morning.
We are introducing a very special edition of Ford Mustang, on this, the 50th anniversary of its introduction at the 1964 World’s Fair.