Auto industry experts and related professionals are closely watching new developments at Ford Motor Company. The first is a new Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen partnership confirmed last month. The partnership is expected to boost annual pre-tax operating results for both companies starting in 2023, the two companies told reporters at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Just months before, Ford was already creating a stir in the auto industry by naming Elena Ford, great-great-granddaughter of Henry Ford, to become Ford Motor Co.’s chief customer experience officer. Ford will work with dealers to improve the customer service experience throughout the vehicle-buying process. She will report to Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations.
According to early reports, Ford and Volkswagen will work together to develop and produce medium-size pickup trucks and small commercial vans. They also have plans to cooperate on electric and autonomous vehicles and investing on EV Infrastructure and an EV charger product. Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett called the agreement an industry-transforming event.
“Breakthrough technologies are transforming nearly every aspect of the vehicles we build and how people use them, demanding a rethink of how we design transportation systems,” Hackett said.
The partnership is expected to bring together the strengths of both companies. President and Chief Executive Officer of Volkswagen AG Herbert Diess said working with Ford Motor Co. would bring together strong economies of scale to build and develop passenger cars as well as light commercial vehicles and mid-size pickup trucks. Medium-size pickup trucks are expected to become available in global markets as early as 2022, with commercial vans coming later.
At the announcement at the North American Auto Show in Detroit, neither automaker would be specific about exactly where the new partnership’s vehicles would be produced, but industry experts are speculating that the new mid-size trucks will be marketed to South American, African, and European Union markets first and then North American markets at a later date, if at all.
With the increasing development of self-driving vehicles for a variety of business purposes including delivery and transportation, the excitement is building over additional news regarding what Ford and Volkswagen have planned in this area. Forbes magazine reported that the two automakers have signed a memorandum of understanding “to investigate collaboration on electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, mobility service and in some ways, combinations of all three of those and have started to explore opportunities.”
Meanwhile, women business leaders from all walks of life are applauding the recent announcement about Elena Ford. Some are even calling the new appointment a “breaking the glass ceiling event,” a term used to describe the achievement of women in areas where female leadership is rare.
Elena Ford has proven herself already. She previously served as vice president of global dealer and customer experience. She helped launch the automaker’s FordPass app, which lets users do everything from remotely start their car to find and pay for parking.
Corporate leaders say Elena Ford is the ideal person to take on the challenge of bringing the company to a new level in terms of customer experience. She is described as having a genuine passion and unwavering focus on doing what’s right for customers as well as having a deep connection with auto dealers.
Ford already has traveled to Dallas and Beijing in her new role to work directly with dealership service centers to try to improve processes.
“Customers see the dealers as Ford,” she said. “We have to deliver the most trusted experience for our customers.”
Many Ford family members have headed up the business over the years, and currently Elena’s cousin, William Clay Ford Jr., holds the role of executive chairman.
Elena Ford’s background in marketing has played an important role in her career development, which started in New York at the advertising agency Wells Rich Greene. The agency reportedly had a part of Ford’s ad account, and Elena Ford learned strategy from this new angle. After three years she went back to Ford Motor Company, taking her new skills into the truck and motor sport advertising departments. The experience at Wells Rich Greene as well as the work she did in Ford’s advertising departments gave her a unique perspective for the brand.
“You have to make a commitment to it, and I want to see Ford succeed,” Elena Ford said.