Ford CEO Jim Hackett Invites Us All To ‘Take Back The Streets’ From Cars

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It’s rather bold for the Chief Executive Officer of a major global automaker to invite consumers to “take back the streets” from the very thing that said automaker produces and sells, but that’s what Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett advocates in a recent Medium essay. He praises the accomplishments of company founder Henry Ford, billing the automobile as “the ultimate disruptor to human’s lives and our civic way of life” for its ability to enable humans to “travel great distances and to get around town like never before,” and in the very next breath, says this:

“Over time, as our towns and cities were designed around the automobile, roads overtook the community centers. Where people once gathered in the streets and town squares, there are now highways and multi-lane roads.”

The short version of Hackett’s vision for the future of transportation: we consumers need to get on board with new mobility disruptions like autonomous vehicles and the “sharing economy” to cut down on congestion, reduce pollution, and reclaim the streets “as bustling social hubs where neighbors and families [can] gather, vendors [can] sell their goods and children [can] play.” It’s a testament to Hackett’s genius that, throughout the entire ten-paragraph essay, he only uses the word “autonomous” once.

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By putting so little emphasis on the buzzword du jour, Hackett is able to better stress the (hopeful) end result of the technology’s rollout: revamped urban centers that again put humans – not cars – at the center. Ford is steering toward this goal, he says, by “collaborating with cities, civic organizations, urban planners, technologists and designers around the world to develop new ways of moving people and goods.”

In other words, Ford is betting big on its ambitious “City of Tomorrow” concept.

It’s a rosy picture that the Ford CEO paints, and one which ought to send a pang of panic through the mind of anyone who professes to love cars. What room will there be for human drivers in such a structured, automated utopia? the car fan must ask. What will happen to horsepower? To handling performance? To the manual transmission?

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We lovers of speed will just have to hope Ford’s President and CEO is being overly optimistic.

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Written by Aaron Brzozowski

Aaron Brzozowski is a writer and motoring enthusiast from Detroit with an affinity for '80s German steel. He is not active on the Twitter these days, but you may send him a courier pigeon.

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3 Comments

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  1. OMG ! This guy sounds just like the other guy who almost ran FoMoCo into the ground, Jacques Nasser. Remember him ? He had bird brained ideas just like this clown. After 30 years in the front line at a dealership I’ve seen plenty of bone head moves these supposedly market experts make. Now they want to get rid of cars in the lineup ie. Fusion and Fiesta. Just All SUV’s and trucks. They put All there eggs in one basket before and almost sunk the company before. This guys trendy ideas are surely going to backfire!!!

  2. Mark Fields understood the business of a car company was to make the best cars that they possibly can. His tenure at Mazda saved the company and he had the potential to even surpass the exceptional Alan Mulally. Ford was rebuilding their passenger car reputation with the Fusion, Fiesta and Focus, and it takes years, but they were making steps in the right direction. I trust what Mary Barra is quietly doing at GM to deliver quality products and value much more than Hackett’s bombastic nonsense.

    I thought the era of short-term gain for the Detroit Three was over after 2008, but now it’s back and better than ever because every car company wants to be Tesla with their rocketing stock price. They have legacy costs that Tesla doesn’t, and they don’t have anyone with the star power of Elon Musk at the helm so fat chance of that happening.

    Hackett’s speech about the “City of Tomorrow” sounds even more ridiculous than anything I’ve heard from a politician and that’s no small feat. Hell, even Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi couldn’t get that done anytime soon if they managed to get every Republican and Democrat on the same page.

    I liked Ford’s product arsenal under the Mulally era, and bought a Focus which I like. I thought Ford was becoming America’s flagship automaker with excellent, competitive products. Now, the lineup is withering on the vine, car production is switching to India and China with the first Indian-built Ford (Ecosport) coming out to tepid reviews and already has $2,000 in lease incentives out of the gate.

    So, let me get this straight. What reason do I have to support an automaker based in the United States that is taking production out of the United States for the sole reason of penny-pinching, delivering noncompetitive vehicles like the Ecosport, and whose CEO insults the very business and products they make?

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