Ford laying out its vision to grow beyond building cars

Bill Ford on Trump presidency

The doors have just opened on the first preview day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. And while the focus is on the cars, there’s a lot of attention on the future, from a new administration in Washington to self-driving vehicles.

Correspondent Kris Van Cleave asked Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford about the company’s transition to a “mobility company,” and about President-elect Donald Trump, who has been critical of Ford on Twitter and on the campaign trail for building cars in Mexico.

“Is that good for business?” Van Cleave asked.

Executive Chairman Bill Ford. CBS News

“I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but it’s the reality that we are in,” Ford replied. “I actually felt like I have a good relationship with him. He’s very different, as you might suspect, one-on-one than over Twitter.”

When asked if he has concerns about a Trump presidency, Ford said, “Look, any time there’s a transition there’s a lot of unknown, but I’m really encouraged by the dialogue that we have.”

Last week, Ford scrapped plans for a new factory in Mexico, to instead invest in an existing Michigan plant, and add 700 jobs.

Competitors General Motors and Toyota took a beating from Trump on Twitter, who threatened, “Make in the U.S.A. or pay big border tax!”

Van Cleave asked, “Do you have concerns about that, or do you think that’s just blustery talk?”

“Well, we’ll see. Nobody wants to start a trade war. When I went to see him this summer, one of the things I pointed out is we’ve been in Mexico over a hundred years, Ford has. Long before NAFTA, all the way back to my great-grandfather, part of his belief was we should build and sell all around the world.”

This morning Ford and company CEO Mark Fields will lay out a dynamic new vision for addressing gridlock in the increasingly crowded cities of tomorrow, and how that will change Ford into a carmaker and mobility company -- a mix of smart technologies, electric and self-driving cars, ride-hailing apps, and car-sharing.

When asked if the company’s vision is not as car-centric as expected from an automaker, Fields said, “From our standpoint, any good business has to have one foot in today and one foot in tomorrow. And we’re looking at the societal trends of more congestion in cities, and asking ourselves, what does that mean for our business? And as we expand to an auto and mobility company, it starts with cities, and that’s why we’re laying out our vision.”

And does that mean potentially building fewer cars?

“Maybe, maybe not,” Ford said. “I think that’s all TBD. They’ll be different kinds of cars, that’s for sure. You are still going to need to move people, you are still going to need to move things, you are still going to have to have work to be done by vehicles.”

Ford is also announcing that it is expanding its app-based, ride-sharing Chariot service to eight cities. They’re also launching an industry first, “City Solutions” team to work with cities to address congestion.

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