How Ford Motor Company's New CEO Looks at Today's Top Innovators

Mark Fields discusses what makes companies like Fitbit and Zipcar innovative leaders.

May 14, 2014 at 6:04PM

Leadership

Ford COO Mark Fields gave the keynote address at last month's New York International Auto Show. Ford announced that Fields, shown here (at right) with Ford's CEO Alan Mulally and Executive Chairman Bill Ford, will succeed Mulally as Ford's CEO on July 1. Photo credit: Ford Motor Company

Even though it didn't have any major new models to announce, Ford (NYSE:F) had a big presence at last month's New York International Auto Show.

Ford celebrated the 50th anniversary of the original Mustang's debut by unveiling a commemorative model -- and with an epic stunt at the Empire State Building. The company also showed off its refreshed-for-2015 Focus, and many key Ford executives were on hand.

Those executives included Ford's Chief Operating Officer, Mark Fields. Fields opened the New York show's media days with a keynote speech that framed the show as a showcase of innovation.

Fields's speech keyed off of the 1964 World's Fair -- where the original Mustang was unveiled, and which Fields attended as a small child -- to talk about innovation, the characteristics of innovative companies, and how Ford is looking to the future of transportation.

It was a fascinating speech, one that got even more fascinating with last week's announcement that Fields will soon succeed Alan Mulally as Ford's President and Chief Executive Officer. 

We (the Motley Fool's John Rosevear and Rex Moore) were in the room when Fields spoke, and we captured the speech on video. In light of Ford's announcement of Fields' impending promotion, we've decided to share excerpts of the speech that -- we think -- shed light on the current thinking of Ford's brain trust at a moment when the company is preparing for a significant transition.

In this excerpt, Fields talks about several of today's most innovative companies. You'll hear him explain how, in his view, companies like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Zipcar, and Fitbit have become innovative leaders.

Check out this presentation by Ford's next CEO, and scroll down to leave a comment with your thoughts.. 

A transcript (provided by Ford) of the excerpt is included below.

 

Mark Fields: Today, just like in 1964, the great innovators are those who do three things very well: They understand, they anticipate and they anticipate again.

Apple, of course, is the classic example. Apple dropped "Computer" from its name when it foresaw the world's migration to mobile platforms and recognized its customer base was increasingly global. This is why Apple has been earning 75% of its revenue from its touch-screen iPhone and iPad, commanding more than half of the tablet market, adding 900 apps each day and building a customer base in 100 countries.

Another example is Zipcar, which has disrupted the car rental model. Zipcar, in many ways, isn't so much a rental service as it is a company that sells cars one hour at a time. It has made vehicles accessible, convenient and affordable, especially to young people -- using smartphone applications.

Since the first Zipcar hit the streets of Boston in 2000, the company has expanded to more than 50 cities across the United States, Canada, Spain and the United Kingdom. It now has 860,000 members, and we continue to see more growth in this hourly industry from others -- including Hertz, with its On Demand service, and Enterprise, with its CarShare, along with newer entries such as Carpingo.

Another great innovator is Fitbit.

Building what started with Nike's FuelBand, Fitbit gives consumers a glimpse into their physical state on a minute-to-minute basis, with the tools they need to change their behavior on-the-fly to promote well-being.

Fitbit anticipated that finding a way to make health data accessible to more people on a daily basis is possible through innovation. And last year, Fitbit claimed 67% share of its market.

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John Rosevear owns shares of Apple and Ford. Rex Moore has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Ford, and Nike. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Ford, Hertz Global Holdings, and Nike. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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