Ford Motor Company has shelved its B500 compact car platform planned for India in 2017, according to recent global news reports.
Interestingly, it was barely a few weeks ago when its recently created mobility arm invested in Zoomcar, India’s self-drive car rental company. Ford Smart Mobility came into being in March to ‘design and build mobility services on its own and collaborate with start-ups and tech companies’. The investment in Zoomcar fits in with this objective.
At one end, the American automaker is pulling out all stops in its new mobility drive and, on the other, shelving a car manufacturing programme critical for emerging markets such as India and Brazil.
Perhaps, all this goes in line with the vision of its President and CEO, Mark Fields who spoke of changing mobility trends across the world at ‘Further with Ford 2015’ in San Francisco last year. “We see ourselves both as an automotive company and a mobility company. We have to drive the business today but at the same time anticipate and deliver customer needs 15 years down the line,” he said.
For the past few years, the Ford leadership team had been wondering if the freedom of mobility was being threatened by four mega trends that could affect future transportation. The first, said Fields, was urbanisation and the exploding population. There were already 30 mega-cities with over 10 million people and this number would only grow over the next decade.
Two, the doubling of the global middle class to four billion people was another reality to be contended with, said Fields. Asia would drive a lot of this growth where its middle class aspired to own a car. The third trend was health risks due to poor air quality and congestion, while the fourth was changing customer attitudes and priorities regarding vehicles and transportation.
Fields said that rather than just sit back, Ford was doing something about these issues and saw the changing scenario as a huge opportunity. “We see software and connectivity technologies are driving vehicle innovation faster than ever,” he added.
According to him, Ford was also aware that there was a new generation of buyers using technologies to make their lives easier. This is where a focus on smart mobility would be useful and put in context why it saw itself as being both an automotive and a mobility company. It is also here that the automaker’s research and innovation centre in Palo Alto, California, will have a big role to play jointly with the think-tank in Detroit.
Ford Smart Mobility will aim at delivering the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience and big data. “Our goal is to make people’s lives better by helping them navigate more easily through their day, address societal issues and, over time, change the way the world moves,” said Fields.
Ford is also taking into account changing demographics across the world in its mobility roadmap. These include trends like people getting married late or more women being added to the billionaires list. Research also shows that Gen Z, born after 1993, will not let age, education, employment or lack of resources stop them from making their mark on the world.
Gen X, the products of the ‘60s are seen as being sceptical while Gen Y, which followed two decades later, is tech savvy and the pioneers of the digital age. According to Ford, both Gen Y and Z are poised to change the landscape of the world. It also drives home the importance of countries like India in this new drive.
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