It's shocking to realize that automotive is becoming a software play. But it shouldn't surprise us that automotive execs struggle to adapt to disruption after decades of slow changes.
The auto industry has a mixed relationship with self-driving cars - they promise fantastic benefits and an entirely new generation of vehicles to sell, but also challenges everything about how a car is designed, engineered, marketed, and sold. If you had any doubts, the CEO shakeup at Ford should be taken as clear evidence that autonomous vehicles are the future of transportation.
Even more interesting is that Ford's shakeup was pushed by shareholders, who presumably care more about their stock value than the canard that that Americans love the freedom of the open road so much that they will hate autonomous driving. American driving culture will continue to exist, of course, but the more common experience behind the wheel is a daily commute, traffic jams, errands, and stop-and-go urban traffic. All are areas where autonomous vehicles will shine.
Ford will announce Monday morning that it is replacing CEO Mark Fields with Jim Hackett, who ran Steelcase furniture for 20 years before joining the car company, reports The New York Times. Hackett most recently headed Ford's autonomous vehicle subsidy, known as Ford Smart Mobility. Under Fields, who served as CEO for three years, Ford shares dropped 40 percent. He also was criticized by investors and the board for failing to make Ford a competitive player in the development of high-tech vehicles for the future. Between the lines: The shake-up shows that Ford is shifting its focus to accelerate its self-driving technology. As the NYT points out, Ford has lagged behind other large automakers like General Motors and tech companies like Google, both of which have already begun testing their own autonomous vehicles.