Dealers will play an increasingly greater role as Ford Motor Co. transforms to offer new mobility services, CEO Mark Fields said Friday.
Speaking at the convention’s first general session, Fields affirmed his belief in the traditional franchise system, and argued that the changes happening in the auto industry with autonomy, electrification and ride sharing will make dealers and their service centers more profitable.
“We have a once-in-a-century chance to implement a host of new innovations, working together, to transform the world once again,” Fields said.
Ford is making substantial investments in autonomous and electrified vehicles. The automaker is investing $4.5 billion to add 13 electrified vehicles within five years. It says it will offer a fully driverless car for commercial businesses in 2021.
Fields suggested dealerships of the future will look different. He said they could serve as charging stations for driverless electric shuttles, or parking lots for ride-sharing services.
“Make no mistake, we believe dealers are an essential part of our industry and company’s future,” he said. “We at Ford see dealers playing an even more important role as we expand our business to become an auto and mobility company.”
Much of Ford’s transformation is occurring in urban areas. Fields said. Cities will change with car-sharing shuttles like Chariot, an on-demand shuttle service based in San Francisco that Ford acquired in 2016.
Fields noted he’s working with President Donald Trump and the new administration to help grow the economy and ensure the auto industry continues to add jobs. On Monday, Fields met with the president and other manufacturing executives. He followed that up with a Tuesday meeting alongside the CEOs from General Motors and Fiat Chrysler.
“I think he’s going to be good for our industry,” Fields said of Trump. “I think he’s going to be good for the economy.”