Ford's Futurist: Optimistic About The Worldwide Auto Market

Sheryl Connelly is the head of Ford's (NYSE: F  ) Global Trends and Futuring Division, where she separates trend from fad and helps the auto maker determine what global changes will influence the market in years to come.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Brendan Byrnes: What would you say, overall, when you're looking decades out? Are you optimistic about the worldwide auto market?

Sheryl Connelly: I am optimistic. I think I'm inherently optimistic about all things, but it's sometimes hard to be optimistic. When you play in this space of futuring, one of the things we do a lot is scenario planning. Interestingly enough, it's much easier to write a negative scenario than it is to write a positive scenario.

I think human nature is such that it's a lot easier for us to imagine all the ways that things can go wrong ...

Brendan: Right. We don't want to miss anything.

Sheryl: ... than all the things that could go right.

It is exciting, but I think that Bill Ford, our Chairman and the great-grandson of Henry Ford, has really interesting points of view that he's shared on this. He said there was a point in his life that all he did was think about how to sell as many cars as possible and now he actually worries, "What happens if we sell as many cars as possible?"

When you look at the increasing population, some people say that there could be up to four billion cars on the road. Is that necessarily a good thing? When you already have famously congested areas -- São Paulo, Shanghai, Beijing -- during the Beijing Olympics they had an 11 or 12-day traffic jam, and that was after the government had instituted this odd and even day paradigm.

I love the way that he brought it down to something that I think is really fundamental. He said, "Henry Ford had this idea that mobility was an integral component of the advancement of freedom and innovation. If we get to a place where we have global gridlock, do we then also put the advancement of freedom and innovation in peril?"


I love the direction when you hear him talking about, "Maybe we are part of a system of multimodal forms of transportation." Maybe we elevate our thoughts, not just about being a manufacturer, but an enabler of mobility in lots of different forms and different contexts.

Brendan: Very interesting discussion. Sheryl Connelly, thanks again for your time.

Sheryl: Thank you.


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