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Why Ford is shifting its focus from cars to 'mobility'


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Knowing where we are going next, or as the cliché goes, the "Next Big Thing," has a lot to do with savvy investing. If one is upset when facts disrupt their beliefs, like the folks who said an electric car will never be feasible/won't ever be produced/won't sell are faced with Tesla they start to invent ways to not admit they were very wrong. Even now, folks are trying hard to ignore the fact that every automaker in the world is about to build EVs competitive they hope, with Tesla's quality, range, and very fast charge times. The Leaf and other EVs today are nowhere near the performance or range of the Model S or X. But don't get me wrong they will get it right by about 2020 in my estimate. In the meantime, Tesla will have been in production with their own battery plant/s for 3-4 years, will have had the economical to buy Model 3 in production for three years, will be getting 500 mile range on all their cars while making Supercharger charge times on trips even faster (20 minutes to charge now,) will have developed their Powerwall Battery storage technology to about how far they came with the Roadster in 7 years, the Model S 4 years after that, and the Model X two years after that. See the trend there.


So what are the other big automakers doing in response? Aside from the Porsche Hybrids and Hybrids from other and a few EVs, some appear to be easing out of the car manufacturing mode more than you would think. And I doubt anyone will be so bold as to say any of today's energy and vehicle disruptions would have occurred without Tesla, Musk, and his unique approach to actually doing it before others are through talking about how it cannot be done. They started to experiment, and built a few prototypes, and then wonder why their customers are not buying anymore. All the claptrap in the world won't make facts fakes. Nor make fakes facts!


Ford is making an impression with me and may be jumping two steps ahead, but as of yet has only vaporware, nothing in even limited test production of a few hundred to put out on the road. Or like Tesla did, thousands, with their Roadsters. What are the chances that any of the big three automakers will get several thousand of their customers to shell out $100k in advance as payment in full to reserve their new For or GM EV, and do that without paying one penny for advertising their alpha test vehicles, which Tesla did.


Musk got my attention! But strange as it may seem, Ford is making some very interesting noises. Unlike Tesla detractors I am not saying Ford is wrong. Or right. But some compelling points are made similar to Elio motors who will revolutionize the ICE concept of vehicle affordability and lifetime costs to own. I am also invested in Elio with $100.00 for which I got a T-Shirt for so far. Ford is behind Paul Elio in realizing that todays kids may not want a big old car for economic and other reasons. How would all the Tesla detractors have thought if I told them in 1972 when XKE Jags sold for under $7k and a top line Cadillac went for about $6k, give or take, if I told them they would be paying over $30k for a mid level ICE car on average, more than some new houses cost then, and pay $3 bucks a gallon for gas????


Ford may be onto some things.


At EmTech 2015, Erica Klampfl outlined Ford's plans for improving 'multi-modal' transportation across the globe.


Ford's Erica Klampfl, the automotive company's global mobility solutions manager, starts out her speech at MIT's EmTech 2015 with this startling sentence: "We can't just keep putting more and more cars on the road. People are having problems getting around."

Yep, looks like Ford is using some of the $5.9billion loan they took out with the DOE several years ago to some use. However they are talking concepts and prototypes and not in production yet on any of it, that I can see.

However she made some really interesting points.


"Klampfl, the automotive company's global mobility solutions manager, spoke at the conference about how Ford is "focused on being a mobility company" and explained the business strategies they are testing to make this possible.

There are currently 28 megacities, with populations greater than 10 million, across the globe. By 2030, Klampfl said, there are projected to be over 40. This new landscape means increasingly congested roads.

"People in urban areas need new solutions," she said. Just last month, a massive traffic jam in Beijing left thousands of drivers stuck in their cars for more than ten hours. "These are crazy situations," said Klampfl, "impact people's ability to move around." Beyond easing our ability to move around, she said, decreasing congestion on the roads will have a positive impact on other areas like air quality, as well.

The number of middle class citizens, now at 2 billion, is also expected to double by 2030. "It's an economic marker," said Klampfl. "When people get to the middle class they usually aspire to buy a car."

Although these figures are accurate, the focus here is on China. It's worth noting the general consensus about the thinning of the middle class in the US.

"But the car is just one mode in the transportation ecosystem," said Klampfl. "We're interested in other modes." Mobility, for Klampfl, should expand to include travel for those who don't currently own a vehicle.

Ford has taken several steps to address these larger transportation issues. A big piece is a new focus on e-bikes. In June, they unveiled the MoDe:Flex, a versatile bike that can be used in different needs such as the road, mountain or city riding. Another is "GetAround"—in which customers who finance through Ford credit can allow vehicles to become part of a peer-to-peer carsharing service.

The company's innovate mobility series challenged cities around the world to solve different mobility problems, specific to local communities. In Mumbai, for example, the problem was how to get around in monsoon season. The solution: Using data you could get from the car. Windshield wipers, Klampfl said, could indicate heavy rain in different areas.

TechRepublic caught up with Klampfl for a few follow up questions:

(Derek/RV's note: go to the link and the article to see the answers to the following questions. Awesome!)


Is today's new generation of driving-age kids as interested in buying cars?


What do Ford's experiments aim to find out about transportation?


Toyota just announced the creation of Toyota Research Institute, focused solely on AI. What kind of AI team does Ford have, and what is it working on?


What makes Ford's approach unique?


How is it a human rights issue?


To see the answers to those questions and more with active links go to the article on TechRepublic here: http://www.techrepublic.com/article/why-ford-is-shifting-its-focus-from-cars-to-mobility/?tag=nl.e101&s_cid=e101&ttag=e101&ftag=TRE684d531

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