A couple of weeks ago I was flown out to Dearborn, Michigan to spend a few days with Ford Motor Company at their Further with Ford conference. This was my fourth conference that Ford paid to bring me to, and right up front I want to let you, the readers, know that Ford paid for my flight, hotel, and all the warmed-over catering I could eat.
This was more than a blogger day camp, though at times that is what it felt like as Ford trotted out big names like Bill Ford Jr. and CEO Alan Mulally to talk shop with us. That said, I’ve come up with a list of six things I learned at the conference, and what to look for from Ford in the coming years.
1) Ford the Tech Company
More than anything, the Further with Ford conference reminded me of a tech conference. There were over 250 attendees from all corners of the world, from mommy and daddy bloggers (shoutout to Carmen at Mother to the Screaming Masses and Chris at Every Man’s Auto) to computer geeks, wealthy lifestyle writers, and everything in between. And the one thing Ford emphasized to all of us? Technology.
It seems to me that Ford sees the writing on the wall better than some other car companies. The next generation of car owners is more interested in what their car can do for them, rather than the car itself. Technology and style rather than performance will drive sales in the 21st century. And speaking of style…
2) Does This Car Make Me Look Cool?
Ford held four different conferences on the second day, discussing the effects of urbanization, social media, technology, and style on today’s automobiles. One thing that really struck home with me was a panel of designers, including Ford’s own head of design J Mays. I always love it when older people discuss my generation, though for once the panel was dead on.
Millennials, they say, are obsessed with brand perception. That’s why iPhones are so popular and Apple is so ridiculously profitable. My generation is cost-conscious, and we’re always on the hunt for a bargain…but when it comes to certain brands, like Apple, we splurge. It seems to me that Ford wants to become the Apple of automakers…and they’re well on their way.
3) Cities Are The Future
Urbanization was another major trend identified at the Further with Ford conference, and I can tell you from personal experience that it’s happening. This country boy moved into a metro area primarily because I wanted to be closer to “the action”. Ford noted that as Millennials move into downtown metro areas, rents go up, businesses blossom, and a sort of natural gentrification happens.
You would think Ford sees this as a problem. After all, if you live close enough to work and entertainment, do you really NEED a car? But the Blue Oval doesn’t seem at all threatened by the resurgence of cities. Rather, Ford talked about connecting cities and cars in ways previously not possible, creating a smart grid to reduce traffic congestion and integrate different forms of transportation with each other.
Remember, Ford wants to be a tech company, not an automaker, which brings me to my next point (and page!)