On Thursday we interviewed Ford's Sue Cischke about the company's sustainability strategy and put the interview online. Now we're gathering comment from key thinkers we know. Here's Dan Sturges, president of Intrago Mobility. Over to Dan...
I think Ford is a typical company that would communicate sustainability issues to engineering teams, design teams, sourcing people, etc.. I would bet that 85% of Ford's employees do not get a view over the "dashboard" - the view she or Bill Ford see of this complex new emerging mobility + access landscape un-folding. Sure the employees hear they should recycle their paper, fill their tires with air, etc.. But not about bold new vehicle sharing business models - Robin Chase talking about open-source transponders for every car and any car can be a rental car - how iPhones can make any car into a taxi (or so many other developments). Unfortunately for Ford employees they don't get to see all that is possible, but may get laid off because those who see what is ahead too often don't know what to do about it.
I think Ford should have an intranet site for their people that shares these bold new possibilities - to every employee that wants to look + learn. Why not let even a janitor at their St. Louis plant see what's happening. Perhaps he has some cool idea for a business offering seniors rides in mini-ev shuttles around his community. While Ford should really have a VC arm for employees starting new ventures - even if they didn't - it would be an important service to someone you might have to layoff at somepoint - to have a better sense of what the future of transpo might be and opportunities for them beyond Ford. Most likely, this type of creatve collaboration with 100% of your employees would bring amazing ideas to the business as well as a lot more happy excited "employees".
So, no, I think Sue and I have a very different idea as to who should be involved in sustainability at Ford.
Here are some things for me that stood out:1) Vehicle Microrental.
Sue Cischke seemed to know more about the Zipcar business model than I had expected – about how consumers would have more choice in vehicles by moving past the ownership model, to instead match mode to trip.
This made me think that a Ford announcement in car-sharing might not be too far away. Perhaps they'll make an investment into Zipcar, or help a few Ford dealers test a “Flexible Lease” approach where a consumer’s car can be exchanged on the fly for another type of Ford car or truck at the nearby Dealer's lot. If this is true, and Ford will put their foot in the car-share pond, how odd it will be that they sold Hertz only 4 years ago. So much for the “vision thing”!2) Mega City Mobility HUBS.
Sue said their work in the mega cities was not their core competency, but they were bringing IT to consumers in cities regarding transpo choices. Oddly, with 80% of Americans not able to get to or from public transit with ease, why not bring the Hub Concept to USA? Allow communities that need to match personal mobility with existing and new transit options to meet at the Community Mobility Hub? Why study Hubs with no connection to personal mobility in South America or India?3) Small Car Safety.
Why do we never hear about how car companies are working with communities and cities to leverage IT to really reduce the chance of big and large vehicles hitting each other? Making travel in local communities like traveling in a boat is a Safe Harbor. Most of the tech she talks about is for freeway travel. But why not make it so small vehicles for community or urban travel are less likely to hit? We don’t design planes with bumpers, we make it so they won't hit.4) Custom Solutions.
She said they make a car different for the Europe from the USA. But why not make these "local cars" I've mentioned - in a shape that's right for the Midwest or the Southwest? We tooled up the first Neighborhood Electric Vehicle for $1M. Now that fleet (of 50,000 NEVs) generates around 80 million one-way zero-emission trips a year in the USA! The digital revolution is poised to change the way we travel, as well as how we DESIGN, MAKE, and SELL this future. Ford just doesn’t think all that differently.5) Working with others.
Yes they do, but the right groups? I don’t see any intent to really find the true disruptive thinkers in the space. I lived in Ann Arbor and heard all of the intent, but never saw it lead to the right folks.
I guess this last point relates to one of the first thing Sue said - that her job was to get the sustainability message to the right people in the company. I think there is likely a big difference between who she and I think are the "right" people.
Dan is based in Boulder, Colorado and designed the G.E.M, still to date the world's best selling EV. He is widely recognised as one of the world's leading evangelists for new vehicle and mobility concepts.