price is lower than in history, and [Ford’s] F-150
now gets 23 miles per gallon.
How do you respond to the critique that
climate change and the environment are
not as important to car companies because
they’re selling so many trucks and SUVs as
opposed to electric vehicles?
Well, you can have it all. That’s the new message. The way Ford got the F-150 from 8 miles
per gallon to 23 is because three years ago the
company made the single-largest investment
ever in a transformation of an auto factory,
changing the underpinnings [of the vehicle]
from steel to aluminum. We had a CEO at the
time who was a brilliant aerospace engineer, Al
Mulally, so he knew how airplanes were built.
It’s a big challenge to put the body panels and
that aluminum together. [You] don’t just put a
screw in them and they hold.
The Ford advantage is that we know what
people love about their cars. Tesla is getting
some love. I don’t want to discredit them.
But these platforms that they build on use
what’s called a skateboard—that’s where all
the battery structure is—and that’s limited
what could be built on top of it cost-effectively.
We’re working on different ways to pack batteries and store energy so you can have the
vehicle that you love. Mustang, for example,
is the number-one sports car in Europe. Can
we marry the propulsion systems of the future
with the passion people have for their trucks
and cars? Of course.
What will be the biggest obstacle to change
at Ford five years from now?
Regulations. I’m really proud that governments all over the world are making way for
autonomy. They’re not holding back the evolution of it. But regulations have got to stay apace.
Regulations that used to protect the way people
were elected fairly haven’t caught up with the
new technologies. That’s the same problem
we’re going to have in vehicles.
As you lead Ford forward into this murky
future, how do you stay positive?
Oh, my goodness. Well, you start with having
a great father. We didn’t need an alarm clock.
Every day, he woke us up. I don’t mean, “It’s time
to get up!” I mean, his singing and the noise
and the optimism, it just flowed through our
home. I come to work every day with this sense
that there’s something I’m going to learn. I’m
optimistic about the way the world’s evolving,
and Ford’s role in that.
How do you lead a
like Ford through
the major shifts
the automotive industry is facing
today, not to mention the economy
The only way to do
it is with constant
and painting a pic-
ture of the future
for our employees
so that they under-
stand both the
challenges of what
we’re up against
and the tremen-
we have going for-
ward. And then get
them excited and
invested in those
thing is to let them
ask anything that
they want to ask.
It’s not enough to
just stand up and
give them a speech
and tell them
what’s on my mind.
I really need to hear
what’s on their
mind. The worst
thing you can do is
mislead them, so if
I don’t have all the
answers I’m not
going to pretend
like I do.
You hired Jim
Hackett to run
earlier this year.
What led you to
In my life, I’ve met
very few original
thinkers, and Jim is
one of them. He
was also a very successful CEO at
Steelcase, somebody I believed
could blend big
What do you
think will be the
your company will
face over the next
The biggest challenge is going to be
to keep the essence
of our culture while
hastening the clock
speed at which we
operate. It means
making sure that
our entire company
can move at the
speed of software
even as we’re continuing to develop
hardware. It’s doable, but it’s a
Ford was founded
115 years ago. Is
there a piece of
that you think
works as well now
as it did then?
My great-grandfather [Ford Motor
Co. founder Henry
Ford] had a famous
phrase. He said, “If
I had asked my customers what they
wanted, they would
have said, ‘A faster
horse.’;” The very
foundation of our
company was disruption. That’s our
THE FAMILY WAY
Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., on the
unending pressure to change, and the enduring wisdom of