October 27th, 2011

Speakers

Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Co.

Description 

It might sound strange coming from the scion of a family whose name is synonymous with cars, but Bill Ford is worried about a world with too many automobiles. “Even if we clean up our cars, 4 billion clean cars is still 4 billion cars,” he tells this Climate One audience. “Most everybody has been focused on CO2 and fossil fuels and the effect that has on us politically and environmentally. That’s absolutely an appropriate focus,” says William Clay Ford, Jr., Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Co. “But I have started to realize that there is this other looming issue lurking out there that nobody was focused on, and that’s what I started calling ‘global gridlock.’”

In a world of 4 billion cars, “How are they going to move? How are we as mobility providers going to provide solutions, and not be part of the problem?,” he asks.

His answer, to a large degree, is technology. Ford gives an example. His company is testing a fleet of demonstration vehicles outfitted with vehicle-to-vehicle information technology. Say you are about to enter an onramp for the freeway. Five miles ahead of you, another car rolls to a halt in stop-and-go traffic. You would receive an alert about the traffic jam and be given an alternate route to save time and prevent a larger back-up.

Climate One’s Greg Dalton asks if Ford and other automakers feel threatened by the increasingly popular trend of urban car-sharing such as Zipcar. Without hesitating, Ford says: “I think it’s a great opportunity. People don’t have to own cars; they want to have access to cars.”

Beyond giving customers access to mobility, Ford stresses his company’s commitment to changing the way cars are fueled. It is investing in R&D in compressed natural gas, hydrogen, fuel cells, and biofuels. But “we are making big bets on electric,” he says, with an all-electric Focus coming later this year and a plug-in model next year.

Ford says that his company is also committed to improving the fuel economy of every model it makes. Four years ago, the company set a goal of being the fuel economy leader in every model category. Ford is investing in a suite of technologies, Bill Ford says, because “we really don’t know how the world is going to break out.” He adds: “Until this nation has an energy policy, which we desperately need, all of this is going to be sub-optimized.”

- Justin Gerdes
October 27, 2011
Photos by Ed Ritger
The Commonwealth Club of California