Published on July 1st, 2013 | by Jo Borrás0
I Went To Detroit To Play With Ford (Part 1)
This past week, I spent nearly 3 full days in Detroit on Ford’s dime, rubbing elbows with titans of industry, business-world celebrities, tech media, and (what could reasonably be confused for) a battalion of mommy-bloggers. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was invited to attend this year’s “Further With Ford” technical conference, but I knew it was going to be a great event as soon as I saw these waiting for me in the hotel lobby.
That’s right, kids. Those are Mustang golf carts. And, if you can get your head past the fact that Ford’s been mercilessly flogging
the corpse of Carroll Shelby for every penny that will plink out of it for nearly 50 years now, I think you’ll agree that these are some pretty slick little electric vehicles that are definitely more desirable than 99% of the other NEVs on the market. Maybe 100%. I want one, is my point.
Once the rest of the #fordtrends bloggers and media reps arrived, we made our way from the hotel to the Henry Ford Museum. If you’ve never been already, you definitely need to add the museum to your bucket list. It is, frankly, jaw-dropping, and filled with so many neat vehicles and articles of history and Americana that I’ve decided to make that a fully separate post… and, truthfully, I could make it several dozen posts. It’s that incredible. That said, it was the Progressive X-Prize winning Edison2 Very Light Car that grabbed my attention with the most assertiveness. It is weirdly bigger, yet smaller, than you think it would be, because photographs flatten the car and hide its height while making it seem longer. See if you can follow what I’m saying…
… those of you who have seen the Edison2 in person, I’m sure, can testify to what I’m trying to describe here.
The Further With Ford conference got underway, officially, with a speech from Ford CEO Allan Mullally, who spoke about “the Henry Ford plan” of high employee pay and the Model T as a great, democratizing force in the 20th century, which delivered “unfettered transportation” to millions of Americans and helped to create the American middle class. I couldn’t find anything on Google about a “Ford plan,” but I did find over 70,000 articles about Henry Ford’s union-busting efforts, so I’ll take most of Mullally’s speech with a grain of salt and focus on his (factually correct) angle on the Model T.
Mullally’s speech came to a close with talk of Ford’s future sharing a goal with Ford’s past. That is: to provide transportation to “every” American. The Ford CEO then opened the floor to questions, and the first one — right out of the box! – was no meatball!
That’s Gas 2′s & CleanTechnica’s Susanna Shick, who put Mullally’s feet to the fire by asking, “One of the biggest threats to Americans’ health is vehicle emissions. If Ford is so concerned with providing safe transportation to every American, how is Ford working to deliver more zero-emission and electric cars?” (disclaimer: this is from my memory, since I was too impressed with the question to take notes)
After much hemming and hawing, the answer boiled down to something like, “Ford is waiting for Washington to issue a National Energy Policy (NEP), and if that’s hydrogen or electric cars, whatever it is, Ford will be there with those vehicles.” This was a sentiment echo’d the next day by Bill Ford, in a speech referring to Ford as a mobility company.
Good stuff, for sure. Still — I, for one, wished out loud that Bill Ford was more like Henry in the “people can have any
color fuel they want, as long as it’s black electricity” sort of way, but nobody at Ford wanted to hear that. Like, literally nobody at Ford, and I was very uncomfortably asked if I was “in the right place” for said wishings.
Days 2 and 3 involved quite a bit of tech session-speak, which included some great insights from Steve Wozniak and Seth Godin (who is one of my personal heroes), as well as some basic autocross in a Ford Fiesta and a Proving Grounds test drive of Ford’s new Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid. More on that in parts 2 and 3 of this series, though — which will feature a lot more of this…
… stay tuned!