Ford Motor Company's New Chief: Innovation Is Key

Ford COO Mark Fields gave the keynote address at last month's New York International Auto Show. Fields will become 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 Ford's recent track record of innovation. Fields looks at Ford's EcoBoost engine family, the Ford SYNC system, and the aluminum construction of the all-new 2015 Ford F-150 pickup as examples of how Ford has gained ground through innovation.

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.


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Mark Fields: Closer to home for me, of course, is the innovation that's under way at Ford today.

A few years ago, we took a position on fuel efficiency, recognizing the changing world and consumers' increasing desire for fuel-efficient vehicles. So we moved forward with a big bet, introducing our powerful and efficient EcoBoost engine technology.

EcoBoost delivers better fuel efficiency than larger-displacement gasoline engines -- while still delivering all the power and performance of a larger engine. We now have installed EcoBoost in more than 2 million vehicles worldwide, including V6-powered EcoBoost engines as a dominant presence in our F-150 truck lineup. And that was an idea people thought was crazy just a few years ago.

Another example is SYNC. We were the first automaker to identify the connectivity trend and to anticipate the skyrocketing growth in smartphones -- along with the important role connectivity would play in people's lives. Working with leading tech companies, we introduced SYNC as the first in-car connectivity solution in 2007. And we made it available on our affordable small cars, defying traditional industry convention that you should save new technology for high-end and luxury vehicles.

We've now produced more than 10 million vehicles with Ford SYNC, in more than 37 countries around the world.

We also predicted the trend toward personalization. When the app market hit $5 billion in 2010, Ford was ready with SYNC AppLink -- a solution for safely and seamlessly integrating apps into the car.

It was in this same spirit that we approached the all-new F-150 pickup being introduced this year. With a vehicle so successful and so important as F-150, it would have been easy to settle for incremental improvements. But as leaders, we committed to change the future of the truck market itself.

This game-changing F-150 advances 65 years of Ford innovation in trucks.

It is loaded with 11 exclusive innovations that offer smart technology and safety. Its high-strength steel frame and high-strength, aluminum-alloy body significantly reduce weight for better capability and gas mileage. We see taking the weight out of vehicles as a major next step -- one that will reshape our industry for years to come.

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John Rosevear

John Rosevear is the Fool's Senior Auto Specialist. John has been writing about the auto business and investing for over 20 years, and for The Motley Fool since 2007.

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