The Future of the Car: Electric, Autonomous, and Ownerless
This week’s podcast is an absolute doozy 😉.
I spoke to Hau-Thai Tang, Ford’s Chief Product Platform & Operations Officer, about the future of the car.
People (myself and EV included, see resources at the end of this email) have been talking about how the nature of the car needs to – and will – change for several years. Electrification, autonomy, shared ownership, micromobility and more have featured extensively in the newsletter and podcast.
But this is the first time that I've spoken in depth with an executive from a traditional car company for the podcast. I was curious to share how at least one incumbent thinks about the coming shift. And it is going to be a big one.
First, the car largely defined the 20th century, from mass production to mass consumerism, from suburbs and urbanisation to infrastructure built to the drumbeat of geopolitics. Car ownership became associated with progress and wealth, something that populations aspired to as their middle-classes grew.
Second, the car hasn’t changed all that much in the last hundred years. Your average four-door may not look much like a Model T, but it still uses an internal combustion engine (ICE) that burns fossil fuels to get you from A to B.
In fact, if we gauge innovation by the volume of firms entering and exiting the industry – a good proxy for disruption – peak innovation in the car industry happened a hundred years ago.
But our idea of the car will change enormously over the next decade.
The threat of climate change, exacerbated by the emissions of vehicles driving trillions of miles each year (close to 3 trillion last year in the US alone) is forcing us to find a new model. Urban air pollution, traffic jams, and unliveable cities are also factors that make that search more urgent.
What might a new paradigm look like? Electrification, autonomy and new business models are all emerging. And this week’s guest is perfectly placed to explain how from a standpoint of an changing incumbent. If you want to hear what Hau has to say about the future of the car, you can listen (or read a transcript) here.
The Big Idea
Hau and I covered so much ground that summing it up under ‘one big idea’ doesn’t do it justice. There were three main areas where Hau shared particularly interesting perspective: