By Erik Qualman
“Have You Driven a Ford Lately?” Ford may want to rekindle this old slogan. With Alan Mulally spearheading the way, Ford is quickly changing its image as a “truck only” company in the United States. It’s hard not to like Mulally’s passion and enthusiasm. I was fortunate to be a keynote speaker along with him at a private event in October. This was a non-tech event so I was floored by how much he discussed social media and technology. Fast forward to today and he was on stage this week as a Keynote speaker at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. This in itself is a tremendous step in the right direction for an automaker – these CES speaking slots are generally reserved for the Steve Jobs of the world. While at Boeing, Mulally helped design the digital cockpit and now he is doing the same with Ford. Some of the more exciting features:
- Ability to stream Pandora Radio
- MyFord Touch is an iPhone-like customizable touch screen that replaces your typical “radio dials”
- Ability to have text and tweets read aloud to you via Ford’s Sync technology
- Ability to send text or tweets via voice command
Mulally also has a vision of changing Dealer Show Rooms into an experience more akin to an Apple Store. Rather than having giant lots filled with hundreds of cars/weeds the vision is a clean, open dealership with showcase cars where users can interact via technology and order cars suited to their needs.
What is striking to me about Ford is that many people often ask about the ROI of social media. With the great work of Mulally, James Farley and Scott Monty at Ford there is something that can’t be measured; a cultural change. Progressive thinking from the top down causes this to happen both internally and externally. The revitalization of Ford is much more than social media and technology, but social media and technology are playing a huge part not only in the bottom line, but also in the perception and culture of Ford; which is often the bottom line of tomorrow. So, perhaps a more important question is: What is the ROI on a positive cultural change?