William Clay Ford Jr. is known for taking the long view. The great-grandson of Henry Ford and the executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, Bill Ford was an early advocate for sustainability at the company, which earned the number-one spot on Interbrand’s list of Best Global Green Brands in 2014 and also has been improving its competitive position. But to navigate through the coming years, Ford must travel in uncharted territory. Today’s automakers confront developments that will affect the industry for decades: swelling megacities, self-driving vehicles, new technology challengers, and digitally connected cars—among others.
In September 2014, Ford sat down with Hans-Werner Kaas, a director in McKinsey’s Detroit office and a leader of the firm’s Automotive & Assembly Practice, and shared his views on disruptive trends throughout the automotive industry, his perspectives on leadership, and the opportunities he sees for the city of Detroit. The interview took place in Ford’s office at the company’s headquarters, in Dearborn, Michigan.
The Quarterly: There are a lot of forces converging in the auto industry right now, including urbanization in emerging markets, powertrain electrification, emissions concerns, and trends toward active safety systems, semiautonomous driving, and vehicle connectivity. Is it an understatement to call this an interesting time?