Open Letter to Ford’s CEO Jim Hackett

Open Letter to Ford’s CEO Jim Hackett

Jim Hackett, the new CEO of Ford, has been given direction by the Ford family and wall street to move to Ford Motor Company into a leadership role in some or all the areas that plague the automotive OEMs right now. Some of those issues are autonomous car development, mitigating potential disruption created by the “sharing” economy, innovating electric drive trains, and most importantly right-sizing a company who will need to be profitable making fewer cars. Jim recently had a conference call with investors to share his 100-day review and plan for moving Ford into the future.

The future is pointing to a consumer that no longer has a deep connection with the vehicle that gets them around. Drivers today want to be on their cell phone and connected to their “stuff,” they are less excited about having a V8 under the hood. Similarly, while the automotive industry employs a lot of technology and automation in their facilities, they still are their grandfather’s manufacturer. It is an industry that has seen minor disruption based on the scale of what is to come. Not to say that there have not been significant improvements since Henry Ford’s Assembly line. Robots and high tech assist tools are everywhere, but the concept would still feel very familiar to a long time retiree. It is an industry that will either embrace the disruption around it or fall victim to new startups that don’t have the burden of a legacy, and it’s associated direct and indirect costs.

What got us thinking about Ford was a recent article in Automotive News and CNBC discussing the use of the HoloLens in Ford’s design process. Last months visit from Microsoft’s Satya Nadella to Ford and Hackett’s legend of being a tech insider may mean Ford is ready to embrace the oncoming disruption. We have come up with seven things that Ford could do today to welcome the tech revolution with help clear out used inventory:

Update Older Models Ford Sync
The younger kids are getting Mom or Dad’s old Edge, or Navigator if they are lucky. Others may be out shopping for a Focus or other competing vehicle. Providing a free update to Sync technology will distinguish the Fords from other cars. Think of it as a Phone running the latest update, but not the newest phone. As we have talked about in past articles, this should provide extra appeal when clearing out used car inventory.

Free GPS for Everyone
With all the free GPS Maps on phones, this is a dying revenue stream anyway. Ford wants the driver data. Why not enable the GPS and updates on all capable used cars, or at least allow a phones GPS to work on the Sync systems in a usable way.

Send Directions to Ford Edge
Want to help drivers be less distracted. Allow them to send the directions from their cell phone to their car. There was an option for this, but Ford killed Sync services for older models. Get it back online and improve it.

Offer low-cost Add-ins
Progressive, AT&T, and others are all competing to stick a device in your OBD port. That is Ford’s port and potentially Ford’s revenue. We know the auto companies have the capability to display significant information through that port. Ford should take its expertise and supply the functionality and capture the revenue. Perhaps your device could wind up on other manufacturers cars.

Keep talking with Satya Nadella
Perhaps Microsoft’s CEO dropped off a copy of “Hit Refresh,” his new book, or perhaps it was just a sales call for Microsoft web services. Either way, Ford, and Microsoft have in business together for a while. That relationship was troubled in the not so recent past. After facing horrible customer satisfaction marks because of Cortana’s older sister Syncronella. Sync 1 and 2 systems tortured drivers that did not know how to communicate with her. Gone too were the trusty mechanical buttons, leaving Syncronella as the only way to “open the pod bay doors.” The poor scores that resulted were an education problem, not a tech problem. Ford’s use of the technology was cutting edge at the time, packing a ton of features in a car for everyone. The problem was execution. Ford dealers handled it poorly with inadequate support from Ford Corporate.

Build that AR experience
AR is not just for the cell phone or the Hololens. It can be on any visor or piece of glass. It will differential your products in a driverless world. Our friends at the 428 Group have specific visions for those experiences which we will cover in a future article.

Membership has Privileges
Not just for the consumer, but for the OEM. Ford is going to need a different method to obtain loyal customers. The consumer of tomorrow is not going to drive a Ford because he is from a loyal Ford brand family. They are not going to have the same connection with the Mustang Cobra or the other feelings that endeared our parents to the brand. The car as a Service, or CaaS to put it into tech terms, is what the future holds for future transportation. Lincoln seems has started down this path with “Black Label”, they need to figure it out and quickly scale it across Ford.

Rethink Dealers and Rental Fleets
The structure of these two businesses needs an updated for a modern age. Dealerships need to transform into a modern hub to connect members to Ford transportation services. An OEM needs to regain control of these businesses to assure they can execute quickly as they roll out new products and capture the revenue from this new service-based model. No longer can the OEM say we are in the business of building cars, whether they know it or not they are in the business of creating an experience. Driverless Cars, Ride Sharing, and Co-ownership are going to reduce the need for the “Tent Sale” and high-pressure tactics of dealers. The car is a service, and the thinking will need to change to how do I get them to use my platform. Leaving this in the hands of independent dealers is a considerable risk.