Ford CEO Warns That Car Brand Loyalty May Fade With Rising Tech Integration

Technology in the auto industry is a blessing that might become a curse according to Ford CEO Mark Fields. Speaking in Bochum, Germany about the new technology that has flooded the market, Fields pointed to the dangers of competing with unconventional players and warned that the auto industry could “end up like the handset business,” in which phone makers are somewhat beholden to wireless service providers.

Ford is no stranger to technology, but its CEO is warning of the dangers to its business model that certain technologies might represent.
Ford's new Focus RS.

“There are others who we never thought five years ago would be competitors for us,” Fields said, according to Reuters. “Guess what, they are looking at our industry, not taking anything for granted, they are questioning tradition and they are knocking down walls.”

When it comes to competitors that could challenge Ford’s business model, there are a few. Tesla electric cars, while too expensive for many car buyers, have batteries that put electric cars from other manufacturers to shame, and companies like GM have been stepping up their game as a result. Another potential challenge to today’s top automakers make come from car sharing services like Zipcar. The service lets people reserve cars from a smartphone and pay for what amounts to a short-term rental. The model isn’t an immediate threat, but it’s new and growing.

And, of course, there is Google’s autonomous car, which hit the road in December. It’s only a prototype at this point, but it’s fully functional and may be providing a peek at the future of driving.

Self-driving car like Google's new prototype vehicle might be a challenge to Ford.
Google's fully functional autonomous car prototype.

Ford is enjoying the glow from January’s F-Series sales, which exceeded sales for F-Series trucks in every January since 2004. It announced today that it will be adding 1,550 jobs and bumping 300 to 500 of its existing workers to higher pay scales. Workers in Chicago, Kansas City, and Louisville will be receiving the raises, while at least 650 of the new jobs will go to Michigan. Ford announced yesterday that it is bringing the well-received Focus RS to the U.S. in 2016.