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Ford Chairman: ‘We Are in an Experimental Stage’

January 11, 2016

bill fordbill ford
Bill Ford (L), executive chairman, and Mark Fields, President and CEO, of the Ford Motor Company watch the introduction of the 2017 Fusion and new F150 Raptor during the 2016 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS ) January 11, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan.Bill Pugliano—Getty Images

By Joseph White

DETROIT, Jan 11 (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co Chairman Bill Ford said on Monday the automaker is open to more than one approach to building its businesses based on mobile internet connections and alternatives to traditional car ownership, including mergers and acquisitions, partnerships and going it alone.

“M&A may be a part of what we do, so could partnerships and so could proprietary” efforts the automaker undertakes on its own, Ford told Reuters in an interview at the Detroit auto show.

“We are in an experimental stage,” Ford said.

Ford Chief Executive Mark Fields, in a separate interview, also said the automaker is exploring various options to boost its move into car-sharing, self-driving technology and services built on staying connected with customers during the 900 or so hours a year they are behind the wheel.

Neither Ford nor Fields would comment on speculation that Ford is pursuing some form of alliance with internet leader Alphabet Inc’s Google to collaborate on development of self-driving cars, or what the industry calls autonomous vehicles.

Ford is pursuing its own efforts to develop autonomous driving technology, and said last week it would triple the size of its self-driving car test fleet to 30 vehicles.

“The technology may be ready before society is,” the chairman said, referring to autonomous cars.

As the U.S. No. 2 automaker builds its new mobility and connected vehicle businesses, Ford the chairman said his company may consider new management structures.

The automaker’s capital-intensive core business of building cars and trucks operates with different rates of return on investment, and different levels of risk, from investing in rapidly changing technologies or service businesses.

Ford’s previous CEO, Alan Mulally, pushed the automaker to operate as “One Ford,” with executives from different operations meeting weekly to share information and resolve problems.

“We’ve managed ourselves well with One Ford,” said the chairman. “We want make sure we do this thoughtfully and not create separate companies that aren’t aligned.”

(Reporting By Joseph White; Editing by Bill Rigby)