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Bill Ford on change in auto industry, yoga and 2-martini lunches

Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

DETROIT -- Unscripted and animated, Bill Ford discussed a wide range of issues Tuesday before the Detroit Economic Club in the atrium of Ford Field.

The executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. touched on everything from the auto industry's future (he's "optimistic" for Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler) to meeting the first CEO of Tesla (Martin Eberhard, not Elon Musk) and overall advice ("being curious your whole life is really important"). He did not seem focused on committing news as much as just talking about life.

Here are the top 10 quotes from the great grandson of the company's founder:

"I wake up every single morning scared. I say that in a good way. Because if you don't wake up that way, you become complacent and in this world, there's no room for complacency."

"You see things now you never would've seen. We have meditation sessions at Ford, mindfulness sessions at Ford, and yoga classes. Our executives all had foot-long cigars back in the day and their stomachs hanging out like this and, you know, two-martini lunches. It's a very, very different culture."

"Just have a really good B.S. detector."

"The term out there is 'frenemies. I think that's a term we're having to become much more familiar with ... In this new world, you may be collaborating with somebody on this and they may be trying to kill you over here on something else. We have to get used to that."

"It'll be a much more fluid world. It'll be a world of ... pursuing the best ideas, regardless of where they come from. They may come from startups, they may come from big technology companies, they may come from our traditional supply base. We have to be facile and nimble enough to be able to work with all of them. That's not something, frankly, that comes inherently to big companies like ours."

"The fact that we're not going to have drivers in many of our cars ... Every single piece of our business, including the way we finance our vehicles, is going to change or is changing. It can be terrifying, and it is, because when you don't have a clear view of what it is that's going to happen, it's always very destabilizing and a bit unnerving. I prefer to look at it, though, as this is an amazing time."

"There are so many ways that technology can be deployed, just for technology sake, that leave people frustrated, not understanding how to use it and in the end, it's a miserable experience."

"Everybody is focused also on the race ... It's who's most thoughtful to market, I believe, will win."

"Most of us are betting hard on electrification ... We're well positioned."

"Ford has been named one of the world's most ethical companies eight years in a row. There's no other car company on that list. It means people trust us. We have to earn that trust all the time. But if we go into this new world with the trust of people, that's a huge advantage."

After the lunch, Ford met with reporters. He explained his desire to have Ford be strategic about releasing information. "There is a very delicate balance between what to telegraph publicly. I think in the past maybe we said too much. This is a very competitive world we live in. We want to give Wall Street enough information but we don't want to give too much. That's a balance we're going to continue to work on." Asked if he might consider bringing the Chariot commuter shuttle service from San Francisco to Detroit, Ford responded, "We could, we could." He said company value will continue to grow as the autonomous vehicle market stabilizes and analysts establish standardized protocols.

(c)2017 Detroit Free Press

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