We joined Ford this past weekend in Dearborn with bloggers from all over the country to see what Ford has in store for the future. How does a car company deal with changing times and new trends? All companies have to react to the changing world around them and marketplace developments, but spotting trends early can be a big advantage if a company is nimble enough to capitalize on these trends.
Some of the subjects addressed included Living Green, Aging Population and Youth Influence and Global Convergence of Design. Malcolm Gladwell kicked off the event with a keynote speech that addressed the issues of change. Gladwell is always entertaining, but I learned much more when we got to see up-close some of the real trends Ford is addressing and how they are directly impacting products.
Other companies may have been first with green initiatives like electric cars and plug-in hybrids, but Ford is pushing very hard in these areas and we’ll see new vehicles in 2012. Ford has teamed up with well-known conservation and green advocate Ed Begley Jr. who gave us a compelling presentation on what was coming from Ford in this area. Some of the changes are not obvious. One interesting innovation involves soy-based foam which is being used in the seats of cars. This foam is biodegradable and offers a great alternative to petroleum-based foam products.
We got to spend time with J Mays in the Ford Design Center and I was blown away by what they can do now in the design process. Everything is digital, and now they can see and test everything on a massive digital high def screen that covered the entire wall in a large room in the design center. Digital version of the car concepts can be places in all sorts of digital settings so the designers can see what the car can really look like in real life, all the way down to how different types of light would reflect off of different paint jobs, Even the promo “photographs” are now digitally created which saves on time and money.
On the last day we had the opportunity to drive a bunch of Ford vehicles in different settings on the test track in order to learn about various Ford vehicles and initiatives. The events were fun and I learned quite a bit. I started with the F-150 drag races and managed to win my heat. I definitely enjoyed the feeling of flooring the truck from a dead stop on a straightaway!
The most revealing exhibit involved the all-new Ford Explorer. Ford had a series of dirt hills and other obstacles built so we could put the new Explorer to the test in off-road setting. They were showing off the vehicle’s Terrain Management System and I came away very impressed. The system takes the guesswork out of 4WD capabilities. Drivers can pick from four settings – Normal, Mud, Sand and Snow. It was a breeze going up and down steep dirt hills.
It was definitely an eye-opening weekend, so we’re expecting some big things from Ford over the next couple of years.