The big news in the automotive industry today has been Ford ousting its CEO [Story].
Although it survived the financial crisis, while GM and Chrysler were forced to declare bankruptcy [Story], with Mark Fields at the reigns over the past three years, the stock price has dropped precipitously [Source (warning: paywall)].
While the inner-workings of the C-suite of a multi-national company can be fascinating, the point of this piece is to discuss the ramifications of the person they are replacing Mark with: James Hackett [Source]. James was the head of the unit that works on autonomous vehicles (colloquially: self-driving cars). This clearly hints at where Ford is thinking the future of the automotive industry in America is heading: self-driving cars.
Self-driving cars could become an $87 billion industry by 2030 [Source]. Whoever makes it first to market with a workable solution is expected to win big from the technology. We've recently scene hints at Ford's interest in exploring the space. They recently made a $1 billion investment in a small Pittsburgh startup focused on autonomous vehicles [Source].
While at this point they haven't said directly that they are going to make autonomous vehicles their focus, the evidence points strongly to that being the case. Between their investment in the field, and their placement of a person with experience in autonomous vehicle as CEO, they're sending out pretty strong signals that that will be the case.
Ford had already gotten their feet wet in partnering with Uber on bringing self-driving cars to Pittsburgh last year [Source], so this isn't too out-landish of a possibility.
What do you think? Will Ford get on the hype-train and shift focus to bringing a self-driving car to market soon? Will we see cities crowded with Ford cars with no one at the wheel? Will that help them get out of the stock glut they've been in for a while now?
Cover photo adapted from Foo Conner.