The new Focus is equipped with more active and passive safety devices than a normal driver is able to understand. How can a salesperson who doesn't have a doctorate in electrical engineering understand all that technology, or properly explain it to a customer?
Much of the safety technology in our vehicles today, such as inflatable seat belts, requires no change in behavior from the driver. Intuitive interfaces make our safety features easy to use, regardless of how complex the technology is behind them.
When I looked at the option packages on the new Focus, I felt lost.
I learned a valuable lesson there about the importance of reducing complexity. In the last four years, we have reduced the complexity by about 70 percent and we are presenting options in a way that make packages easier for our customers to choose. In the Fiesta, for example, the optional heated seats are more popular now because people want technology and extra features even in small cars. We will continue to reduce complexity as we help customers enjoy all the new technologies we have available.
At what point do you think the price of crude oil will begin to seriously affect sales? A competitor of yours recently set the bar at $200 a barrel.
We assumed several years ago that we would have to begin paying more for energy, so we made a commitment to produce a full family of vehicles and be best in class in fuel efficiency. We have invested heavily in powertrain – including electric vehicles – over the past five years and it is now paying off. The Ford Focus Electric is on its way; it is part of our plan to electrify the entire platform.
Ford offers a wide range of excellent diesels for passenger cars in Europe, but none in the U.S. What's the problem?
We would love to offer diesels to our American customers, but they don't provide as much value in the U.S. compared to Europe when you factor in the cost of exhaust after-treatment. So, at this point, the U.S. does not have the same market for diesel vehicles as Europe.
At Boeing you began working on the large-scale use of carbon fiber. A number of your automotive competitors are now applying similar technologies – in one case, Lamborghini, in association with Boeing. Isn't Ford losing a big opportunity to reduce weight and increase fuel economy?
Fuel economy and weight reduction are certainly priorities at Ford. We recently announced that our engineers are working to produce lighter plastic parts that will improve fuel economy and emissions without compromising durability. These MuCell plastics require less energy and time to manufacture, which further reduces emissions and cost.
Ford has cut its longtime stake in Japan's Mazda Motor to 13 percent from 33 percent. Will you keep it there, or are you planning a complete divesture?
Reducing our stake in Mazda was one part of the big decisions we made four years ago that helped us get back on track. Mazda is, and will continue to be, a key partner in Ford's business plans – particularly in the areas of r&d, product development and manufacturing.
Why did Ford sue to stop Ferrari from using the F150 name on a Formula One car?
The F-150 pickup has been the No. 1 selling vehicle in the U.S. market for 37 years running. The value of that brand name to Ford is something we have a duty to protect. I am happy to say that we have reached an agreement with Ferrari that allows us to protect our fabulous brand name.
Two of the Detroit Three automakers are doing well again and the third is doing OK, even though they're all run by people who are not so-called "car guys." Why is it that it took executives with no gasoline in their veins to save the U.S. auto industry?
I might not have spent many years in the auto industry, but I have dedicated my career to safe and efficient transportation. There are lots of similarities between Boeing and Ford. Building cars is a complex and sophisticated business. There are about 10,000 parts in an automobile and they all have to work together. But compare that to the 4 million parts in an airplane, and remember that an airplane also has to fly. My experience as an engineer is one of the reasons I was welcomed so warmly at Ford.
You will turn 66 in August. You spent 37 years at Boeing and now almost five at Ford, which makes 42 years on duty. Bill Ford recently said that you could lead Ford as long as you want. How long do you want to?
I have no plans to retire anytime soon.