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Ford Motor wants to change the world — again

Bill Ford: “We’re going to need to make choices, and some of those choices are going to be wrong. We have to accept that.” Photo credit: Glenn Triest

DETROIT — More than a century after Henry Ford put the world on wheels, his great-grandson, Bill Ford, is attempting to reinvent mobility. 

Ford’s executive chairman is moving Ford beyond selling cars and trucks to investing heavily in mobility services like ride-sharing, and partnering with cities to solve congestion problems. He said his ultimate goal, beyond making money for his company, is to make people’s lives better and create environmentally friendly products, a cause he’s championed for years.

“I think this is a huge opportunity for companies,” Ford said Tuesday night at the 2017 Automotive News World Congress. “It’s going to create revenue streams and business opportunities the likes of which we’ve never seen.”

The company has predicted it could make profit margins of up to 20 percent on new services, more than double what it makes selling new cars and trucks. But getting to that point won’t be easy, Ford said.

“We’re going to need to make choices, and some of those choices are going to be wrong,” he said. “We have to accept that.”

Ford said electric vehicles and hybrids will play a large role in the new world of shared mobility, and his company is investing $4.5 billion to develop 13 new electrified vehicles by the end of the decade.

Photo credit: Glenn Triet

It’s also working on a fully autonomous vehicle that’s expected to be out in 2021.

“It’s an arms race,” Ford said. “There’s different ways to play this game … . It’s conceivable that all of [the players] carve out a little piece of this.”

He said the stakes are large.

“There will be separation between companies in a way we haven’t seen before,” Ford said. “If we get it right, we’ll be a much higher-margin business … . If we get it wrong, we’ll be irrelevant.”

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