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Ford CEO Outlines Plans To Compete With Ride-Hailing Services


Ford has just announced a $4-and-a-half billion investment in electric vehicles. And the company wants to be known for more than making cars, so Ford is also moving into ridesharing services, trying to compete with companies like Uber.


SHAPIRO: We're looking at the future of the auto industry today on All Tech Considered. Mark Fields is the CEO of Ford Motor Company, and he joins us now. Welcome to the program.

MARK FIELDS: Thanks for having me on, Ari.

SHAPIRO: With so many ridesharing companies out there already, why do you think the world needs another one created by Ford?

FIELDS: Well, we think we might bring a lot of unique approaches to the business. First off, as an automaker, we're really focused on our core business, which is designing, developing and manufacturing and marketing terrific cars, utilities and trucks. At the same time, we're seeing a lot of the societal factors around congestion and what that means for mobility going forward, and that's why we're thinking also of ourselves as a mobility company, which means, how do we make people's lives better, and how do we provide mobility maybe beyond our traditional definition?

SHAPIRO: Let's talk about Ford's investment in electric vehicles. Right now, gas prices are at near record lows. Sales of plug-in versions of cars like your Fusion and C-Max are very, very low relative to your sales of the F-series truck. How do you anticipate shifting consumer demand from your revenue source now - these sort of gas-guzzling trucks - to the electric vehicles of the future?

FIELDS: Well, it's a big challenge right now, obviously, because where the cost of a gallon of gas is, it's not a very good financial decision by the consumer. But part of our job as a company and as an automotive manufacturer and now as a mobility company, is to think of what the world is going to look like five, 10 and even 15 years from now. And our view, very simply, is that over time, oil is a nonrenewable resource. And therefore, over time, higher levels of electrification will be necessary not only to meet consumer demand in that timeframe but also to meet the regulatory requirements.

SHAPIRO: I just pulled up some recent numbers. Your plug-in Fusions sold fewer than 8,000 vehicles through October while the F-series trucks - it was about 630,000 in the same time period. Are we looking at an electric truck in the future? I mean, that's such a huge, huge, huge chasm.

FIELDS: Well, we do have plans to have a rear-wheel drive hybrid truck but the end of the decade. So yes, we're working on electrified F-series, and it's really around a conventional hybrid. But to your point, as you look at the industry today with over about 60 offerings in the industry today for electrified vehicles, it represents around 2-and-a-half percent of the total industry. If you look four years ago or so, there were only about maybe 10 or 15 electrified offerings, and the percent of total industry was about 2-and-a-half percent.

So it hasn't moved much. And importantly, although it's relatively small percentage of our sales, we are the second-largest seller and brand seller of electrified vehicles in the United States, and we're the No. 1 seller of plug-in hybrids. So this is really allowing us to build on the leadership, understanding that the percentages today are small. But going forward, our view is that they'll grow, and we want to position ourselves for that growth.

SHAPIRO: The climate deal that came out of Paris over the weekend aims for net zero carbon emissions by the second half of this century. How many years will it be until Ford's manufacturing plants reach net zero emissions?

FIELDS: Well, overall, as a company, we have said, you know, global warming is an issue, and we want to be part of the solutions. And I can't give you and exact date right now, but we have been very much in the forefront in our manufacturing plants in terms of being very environmentally forward thinking.

SHAPIRO: But my understanding is that globally, Ford's manufacturing emissions are not going down as you expand in China, though. The numbers are actually staying the same or perhaps even going up.

FIELDS: Well, part of that is the growth of our brand and our products around the world. But we are very, very dedicated to making sure that as we grow the business, that we do it as environmentally sensitive as possible and make it as easy as the planet as possible. And you know, we're considered at the forefront, particularly in our industry, around those type of things.

SHAPIRO: Although, if you talk about pivoting from being a 20th to a 21st century company, if your carbon emissions curve has not begun going down, is that really being a 21st century company?

FIELDS: Well, I think overall, one of the main responsibilities of being a 21st century company is to make sure that we do our part, no matter where we are in the world, to contribute to economic development.

SHAPIRO: So I suppose this is the tension between economic development and the need to limit carbon emissions as we move into this new era. Do you see those two as at odds? And it seems as though Ford, historically, has chosen the former, economic progress, over the latter, making cuts that could get in the way of growth.

FIELDS: Well, I would disagree with that. I do think we have been, over the last decade or so, very, very sensitive to make sure that we balance economic growth. We're doing our part for environmental sustainability and also, at the same time, growing our business and, I think, doing it responsibly.

SHAPIRO: That's Mark Fields, the CEO of Ford Motor Company. Thanks for being on the show.

FIELDS: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.