Inspire magazine had the pleasure of meeting Erica Klampfl, the Future Mobility Manager of Ford after her presentation to discuss Ford’s culture, inspiration and the future. Edited excerpt below:
Asking the right question matters. Ford is reviewing the idea of mobility by asking important questions that go beyond just getting from point A to point B. What is the impetus behind the Ford Smart Mobility movement?
At Ford, we don’t look at ourselves as just a product (automotive) company, but we’re in a product and mobility business. And that came from our CEO Mark Fields who stated that “ultimately – we want to change the way the world moves just as our founder Henry Ford did 111 years ago.”
This idea is also echoed by Bill Ford – the Chairman of Ford and family owner who constantly pushes us to think about sustainability and the impact that our products have on the environment. This drives us towards producing a more sustainable fleet of automobiles. Bill Ford also pushes us to think about mobility as a human right. His grand father Henry Ford had the vision of opening the highways to all mankind. And that was really about opening up mobility to the masses.
So, Ford has always been more than just about the vehicle?
Yes, and that started way back in 1923! And I think what my team is doing is very similar in upholding the legacy, but now the world has changed. Today, we have connectivity and we have new technology. What it means to have mobility is no longer just about the car and the ownership – it’s about providing access to all people to enable them to move from A to B.
Your company has engaged commuters from all over the world regarding the question of mobility, in order to build a smarter transportation system. What have you found out?
It is such a big space. That is why we recognise that we don’t have all the answers and we need to form the right partnerships and get the right insights. And we need to hear from a different generation as well. We are breaking new ground as we speak with very valuable insights. There are prototypes and concepts for the future that we are working on based on the feedback received.
As an employee – how does it feel to be a part of a company that has such a forward thinking culture?
I go to work excited, primarily because I know that each day I am going to be engaging with partners and customers to try and solve some of the world’s biggest problems and to come up with innovative solutions through our products. Not only that, Ford has a strong sense of family culture despite having 189,000 employees and 65 plants worldwide, there is a strong sense of community within our company. Many of the people who work for Ford have worked there for a long tenant of more than 10 or 20 years. The company is also extremely community minded. All our employees are given two days a year off with paid leave in order for them to be able to engage in a community project of their choice. We also have a whole department that looks into the human rights issues from making sure that our suppliers are quality suppliers to the way we conduct our business with our employees and stakeholders.
In the presentation you gave various examples of smart vehicles that would communicate with buildings in the future. You also mentioned Ford being a part of the mobility Transformation Centre that runs out of the University of Michiganwhich involves the government and a consortium of companies who are all engaged in imagining future cities. What does the future of mobility look like?
If you asked me five years ago, would I have known that Uber was going to be introduced (and change the way we move), the answer is no. The future changes, things come in a way that we never would have imagined.
To comment on what the future would look like is impossible. It would be impossible to even tell what it would be like in five years’ time. Geographically – each city is different. The future in Africa in five years would be very different from the future in London in five years.
What kind of cars can we anticipate from Ford in the future?
We are now testing fully autonomous vehicles which will be ready in five years. Whether or not it will hit the road fully depends on governments and environmental conditions.