Future Proofing Ford
By EV World Video
Two-part EV World video interview with Ford Motor Company's resident 'futurist' Sheryl Connelly on carmaker's newly released 'Looking Further with Ford: 2014 Trends' report, which aims to make sense of numerous micro-trends that will impact society and Ford sales.
PHOTO: Then senior Ford executives Lee Iaccoca and Paul Frey with original Mustang in 1964.
2014 will mark the 50th anniversary of the evergreen Ford Mustang, a small, sporty car that perhaps has done more for the Dearborn carmaker's image than any model since the 'T'. Its popularity, half a century since its 'backward' pony logo graced the cover of Time, is not just a tribute to its original design, but to a larger global trend that is finding its expression in many facets of modern life from a revival of Frank Lloyd Wright inspired Prairie Home design to 1950's Schwinn 'cruiser'-styled bicycles.
Ford's second annual social trends report refers to this particular trend - one of ten - as 'Old School.' Others might call it nostalgia or a longing for a supposed 'simpler time,' one selectively remembered from our youth, which in the case of 77 million baby boomers would be the era of the Beatles and Ford Mustang, but not necessarily the draft, segregation or the Cuban missile crisis.
In the case of the Mustang, which sold out its first year's production in three months, and was the most popular product launch for Ford since the introduction of the Model A in 1928, the company hit a design home run. It was the right car at the right price ($2,368US) at exactly the right time. Those opportunities don't come all that often, especially in the highly competitive car business, where it once took five years to bring a product to market. At Ford, the design cycle is now down to three years and in the case of the original 1964 1/2 Mustang, it was a mere 18 months.
Knowing what people want years before they want it has always been a challenge. You have to both accurately anticipate the market, while also subtly helping to pull it along. Sensing where society will be half a decade or more ahead is a daunting task, one that requires a huge amount of information gathering and, in the words of Sheryl Connelly, Ford Motor Company's resident 'futurist', a good sense of pattern recognition. It is spotting as early as possible micro-trends that will mature, in time, into macro-trends that can impact what you design and what people will or won't buy.
That's largely the job of Sheryl Connelly, who heads up Global Consumer Trends and Futuring at Ford.
EV World got to talk with Ms. Connelly about a new report she helped produce entitled Looking Further with Ford: 2014 Trends. It builds on a similar report published for 2013, one that focused essentially on US trends. The 2014 report is more global in scope. The company has funded similar efforts in the past, but these have never been publicly released. They were regarded as proprietary for competitive reasons. The 2013 publication is the first to have been made available to the general public.
The video interview with Ms. Connelly is in two parts and was conducted from Ford's corporate communication's center at its headquarters in Dearborn.
VIDEO PART 1
VIDEO PART 2
Originally published: 18 Dec 2013
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