Ford CEO Mark Fields says Ford to focus on 5 key areas of innovation

In a pre-Christmas media event, Ford president and CEO Mark Fields said while 2014 was a good year for the company, 2015 has the potential to be a “breakthrough year”. Fields said that Ford’s investments in products, people, plants and technology, combined with industry growth, are not only delivering a year of growth in terms of revenue, pricing power, operating margins and profitability in 2014, but are setting the stage for growth in and beyond 2015.

The global automotive industry is staged to experience $1 trillion of revenue growth over the next five years, Field said: from about $2 trillion today to about $3 trillion by the end of the decade. “That’s a tremendous amount of growth. We want to get our fair share of that growth.” In moving forward on that, Fields said, Ford will focus on five key areas of innovation: mobility, autonomy, connectivity, customer experience and performance.

If you think about mobility, that’s what we’ve been doing since Henry Ford started the company. It was all about opening the highways to all of mankind … and we are going to continue to do that, both in the physical world, and the digital world.

Our vision for connectivity, it’s all about helping people stay connected. We are going to help enable that with our next generation sync system. Autonomy. Today we have the broadest portfolio of driver assisted features. We are going to build on that those provide the building blocks for full autonomy down the road. Our approach for that is to make it available for all, and not just for a chosen few.

Customer experience. Our vision for the customer experience is that every time someone touches Ford Motor Company … a smile comes on their face. We want to make it easy for the customer to interact with our company. We want to be known as the trusted steward of the customer data.

Performance. Our company was based on performance. The winnings that Henry Ford won from that race back in 1901, he used those funds to start Ford. We are transforming our approach to performance. We will continue to bring to market those products that people really crave .

[In 1901, Henry Ford won the Sweepstakes Race against Alexander Winton, then America’s greatest racer. The upset win also gained the entrepreneur backing for starting Ford.]

Ford has made a number of recent announcements reflecting the focus on those areas. The evolution of mobility has long been a hot button for Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, who urges that Ford think of itself as a mobility company rather than just an auto company.

In conjunction with the media event, Ford announced that it, Magna International Inc. and Verizon Telematics, were supporting the launch of “Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit”—a startup business accelerator program sited in downtown Detroit. Together, the companies are committing $2 million in funding plus mentors and other resources to support participating startups.

The tech incubator is aiming to deliver innovative mobility and transportation solutions that help alleviate growing global challenges such as traffic congestion, parking availability and pollution. The mobility scope is “broader than automotive,” noted Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford. “The space really can comprise a lot of different [types] of companies.”

On the connectivity side, Ford launched the third generation Sync 3 system.

Ford Performance. Ford also announced that it will introduced more than 12 new performance vehicles through 2020, including an all-new Focus RS, to be available globally. Ford is also uniting regional performance engineering and racing teams as one global team under “Ford Performance”, delivering more new vehicles and parts, more quickly.

Ford remains committed to innovation through performance. Our new global Ford Performance team ties together racing, performance vehicles and parts. It will allow us to more quickly introduce products and accessories that meet the needs of customers around the world on-road and on the track.

Focus RS, which builds on a pedigree of driving excellence dating to the first Ford RS in 1968, was last introduced in 2009. Focus RS will join Ford’s existing performance lineup, including Fiesta ST, Focus ST, Shelby GT350 Mustang and F-150 Raptor.

In addition to pleasing enthusiasts, these vehicles help deliver the company’s One Ford plan for profitable growth, product excellence and innovation in every part of its business. Performance vehicle sales are growing around the world—sales are up 70% in the United States and 14% in Europe since 2009.

In the United States, more than 65% of ST customers come from outside the Ford brand, and more than 50% of Ford performance vehicle owners’ next vehicle purchase is a Ford. Millennials are purchasing ST vehicles at a rate twice that of other Ford-branded vehicles.

Powering performance vehicles such as Fiesta ST and Focus ST is Ford’s EcoBoost engine range. Since the introduction of the EcoBoost engine in 2009, Ford has produced more than 2 million EcoBoost engines globally.

The new Ford Performance organization unifies Ford SVT, Team RS and Ford Racing globally, serving as an innovation laboratory and test bed to create unique performance vehicles, parts, accessories and experiences for customers.

This includes developing innovations and technologies in aerodynamics, light-weighting, electronics, powertrain performance and fuel efficiency that can be applied more broadly to Ford’s product portfolio.

In addition to using racetracks around the world, the team will develop new vehicles and technologies at Ford’s engineering centers globally and at the new technical center in Charlotte, North Carolina. This facility will help the team deliver racing innovations, as well as advance tools for use in performance vehicles and daily drivers alike.

The Ford Performance organization is led by Dave Pericak, who has been appointed director, Global Ford Performance.

Data analytics. Ford has also appointed data science and analytics expert Paul Ballew as executive director and chief data and analytics officer, further building its team of experts to help better understand consumer behavior and help speed development of mobility, connectivity and autonomous driving innovations.

Ballew most recently was global chief data, insights and analytics officer at Dun and Bradstreet. Previously, he spent 20 years in business and the auto industry in various senior executive positions researching and analyzing consumer behavior, including at the Federal Reserve, J.D. Power and General Motors. While at Nationwide Insurance, Ballew built the first analytics organization in financial services, transforming the way the company interacted with customers across the entire organization.

Ford is accelerating its investment and research into data science and analytics as the foundation of its focus on innovation. The goal is to better anticipate customers’ wants and needs as Ford implements its Blueprint for Mobility and its One Ford plan for profitable growth.

In the new role, Ballew will lead the company’s data and analytic efforts globally, establishing an enterprise-wide vision for analytics and integrating all of Ford’s research, analytics, processes, standards, tools and partner engagement. He will report to Bob Shanks, executive vice president and chief financial officer. The appointment is effective 5 Jan 2015.

Ford already has an award-winning analytics team. Last year, Ford was awarded the prestigious INFORMS Prize from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences for using data science and predictive analytics to improve overall operations and performance.

Ford uses analytics widely, including in its research, product development, manufacturing, supply chain, marketing and sales, finance, purchasing, information technology and human resources functions.