Marques that worked for the last 100 years won’t work for the next, warns Ford boss

The president of Ford Australia has declared his business will transform from a simple car marque into a “mobility company”, embracing a range of advances including driverless vehicles, drones, shuttle services and revolutionary tech for disabled drivers.

Speaking at Mumbrella’s Automotive Marketing Summit yesterday, Graeme Whickman said that no single technology would define the future of transport, and promised Ford would be investing billions into R&D.

Ford CEO Graeme Whickman

The former head of marketing turned CEO also argued that Australia’s congested roads, and the changing attitudes of millennials, meant Ford had no choice but to embrace the future.

He said: “Young people are smart, demanding, informed and are the largest demographic worldwide. They expect life to get easier and more connected. They’re vocal, share good ideas and condemn what they don’t like.

“Companies that don’t embrace that thought process just won’t survive.”

“We need to work with them to find commercially viable solutions.”

“What if we could turn car parks into green spaces? We could eliminate 90% of the accidents. We are already thinking about the city of the future.

“The future is not just, say, about drones. It requires a broader, more holistic future.”

He used the example of Chariot, the crowd-sourced shuttle service that launched in San Francisco in 2014 and has now been rolled out across America.

Whickman showed how the Australian market has changed with this advert from the 70s

Ford’s research suggests each vehicle is responsible for taking 11 ordinary cars off the road.

“We don’t think 2D but 3D. Even the sky has a role to play in the future of tomorrow.”

Graeme Whickman revealed that Ford has pumped $2.5bn into R&D since 2009, with 2,700 employees now working in the department. And this department now includes roboticists and experts in data along with engineers.

“You need a to have a significant focus on talent.”

“There’s a war out there for roboticists. We announced recently a partnership with AI firm Argo, which is a billion-dollar investment over a period of years.

“We now have 200-300 designers, and we do all sorts of tests before we’ve even shaped the metal. What is well known is that our new Mondeo has more computing power than the first Space Shuttle.

“We’re in a battle for skilled people.”

He explained that these advancements in technology wouldn’t just make moving easier, but allow people with disabilities more access to transport that they currently don’t have.

“We’ll give people access to cars. In Australia, there are around 350,000 people who are blind or who have vision impairment.

“But new solutions will improve quality of life for them. One in five people live with a disability and mobility is a barrier that can stop them providing for their family unit.

“New solutions will improve their quality of life and engagement with society.”

This 2015 Ford Focus advert demonstrates how the company has evolved

Whickman spent the early part of his talk explaining how Australia, in particular, featured some of the most congested cities in the world.

It was a problem likely to get far worse with the overall population set to rise to 40m people.

He said Ford had a responsibility to tackle the problem.

“Cost of congestion in urban centres will be $30bn by 2030.

“What has served Ford before will not serve us again but that doesn’t frighten us.

“Henry Ford, after all, began with a vision of making the way the world moves better.”

Whickman has an interesting CV, switching from a position as executive director of marketing for Asia Pacific into the overall CEO for both Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking to Mumbrella after his talk ended, he spoke about what he took from his spell as a marketer into his new role overseeing the whole business.

“One thing ingrained in me was understanding consumers. Part of my passion for marketing was the psychology of consumers. Or more simply, what makes people tick.

“Marketing as a sub-set sits underneath behaviour science and not just science because it’s defined by attitudes that change over time.

“Good CEOs understand how to lead people and bring people along. That’s one aspect I would reflect on my journey.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.