Ford Says U.S. Model of Personal Transportation Won't Work in Rest of World

By Nick Chambers

Over the last 100 years, Ford has been built on the principle that every person in the United States should be able to afford a vehicle. With pioneering initiatives such as honing the efficiency of automotive assembly lines and controlling all aspects of vehicle manufacturing from metal forging to delivery, Henry Ford was a visionary who helped bring the dream of vehicle ownership to millions. Indeed, part of that legacy is the fact that almost every licensed driver in the U.S. now has at least one vehicle.

But at a recent media event associated with the Detroit Auto Show, Sue Cischke, Ford’s Group Vice President of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering, said that Ford doesn’t see how that model could work in the developing world. Citing population growth and the massive movement of people from rural areas to megacities, Cischke said there is “unprecedented pressure” on our transportation systems.

“Clearly, the model we have in the U.S. where nearly every licensed driver has a car or two, isn’t going to work in these very crowded regions,” said Cischke. “Quite frankly, as we sit here today [Ford doesn't] have a solution for the transportation dilemmas we find in the megacities, but we’re actively engaged in understanding the issues and finding solutions.”

As a business interested in profit, Ford seems to be conflicted: the company wants to make vehicles available to as many people as they possibly can but knows that it can’t sell vehicles to everybody on the planet. One of Ford’s first steps to addressing this conundrum has been to provide increasingly fuel efficient vehicles—but even this is a stopgap. “Automobiles are particularly susceptible to energy supply disruptions and oil price volatility,” said Cischke. “When we see the prices of fuel fluctuating, we see our sales fluctuating, which is why we’re so focused on improving the fuel efficiency of our vehicles around the world. We recognize that these advanced technologies are needed, but we also know that if they are not affordable, no one is going to be able to buy them.”

But when it comes to addressing the long term growth of personal transportation, Cischke admits that there is no good solution right now. “We’re really in a dilemma that some of these developing countries are now finally coming into an age where they can afford their own personal transportation and would like to have it,” she said. “So on the one hand, it’s hard for us to say to people that they aren’t entitled to the same mode of transportation as the rest of the world has had. On the other hand, if you look at the growth of automobiles in the next ten years, where are they all going to fit and how are we going to have room for them?”

Although Ford doesn’t have an answer to these questions, the company realizes that it needs to be part of finding a solution. “We are exploring models that are going to be different—such as car sharing or shared ownership,” said Cischke. “As far as getting into mass transit or something like that, we haven’t explored it and this is an area that we really don’t know yet just what our role will be.”

Cischke imagines that Ford’s role in developing alternative modes of transportation will lie in delivering information to people through connected devices and vehicles. “We find that people are more apt to use mass transit and other alternative transportation methods if they just knew about them,” she said. “One of the roles we can play is being that aid, whether it’s the in-vehicle communications devices we have or ones that we carry around in our hands, just getting that information to people will help.”


  • Anonymous

    - Is Ford Motor looking forward to becoming an ‘IT’/'Information’ company, at least in certain markets?
    - Enter BMW’s Megacity project, we’ll see its result probably in less than a couple of years.

  • Anonymous

    Every person should be able to effort a car: YES
    Every person should drive a car: NO

    Everyone needs a car: YES in the US (and this is bad !)
    NO in the rest of the world

    It is only the US were people NEED a car. I lived for a long time in Germany and never had the need for a car. Public transportation is fantastic for every day use and for long distance you use the high speed trains. Once you are in your destination city, you use again public transportation. You can see cars as luxury and convenience items, but they are not needed.

    In the US you have to own a car to get around – if you fly somewhere else in the states you have to rent a car to get around –> this is the US Model that SHOULD NOT apply to the rest of the world and the US needs to work harder to build a better public transportation.

  • automotive transportation

    I saw the the video of the little rover-style vehicle that one of the other manufacturers displayed at the recent convention. As long as the american car makers continue to innovate, we’ll keep up or exceed the global market. The real shame is that while sales and profits were strong in the early part of the century, that innovation was not a guest at the party.

  • Anonymous

    Eventually everyone will own a car, but will it not use it all the time.

    Light rail is popping up / expanding in many cities : Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dubai, Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Bangalore and so on. We can use trains for every day commute and cars for weekend shopping or some vacation travel.

  • Shines

    You’ve seen commercials showing cars auto-parallel parking. We’ve seen or used GPS. Onstar and Sync technologies and auto braking when traffic ahead has stopped exists on some models. I think we may be a lot closer to getting in our vehicle (the styles can be different and have differing luxury levels), telling it our destination, and the car will tell us how long it will take and then drive us there. Funny how that no longer seems too far fetched. That along with modern traffic control technology may create greater efficiency and safer travel while still allowing the privacy of riding in your own vehicle…

  • JJJ

    Anonymous, completely wrong. There are many areas of Germany where there is no transit, and people “need” a car. There are many areas of the US where people do not.

    Please do not compare Berlin to Houston and then claim that all of Germany is like Berlin (it is not) and all of the US is like Houston (it is not).

  • Anonymous

    JJJ – I guess you have never lived there and don’t know anything about it.

    I’m so annoyed how Ford is promoting the “american way of life” to how the rest of the world should be. This is wrong. The US got it wrong with the transportation system and should not pretend to be a role model there. The US failed on transportation systems (yes, there are one or two cities where it works, in general it does not)

  • JamesDavis

    I like Ford’s comment on affordable vehicles for everyone in America and not needing to take out a loan on the house to make your car payment. Since Ford is converting over to electric vehicles, a good idea for Ford to consider in relieving traffic congestion and pollution from fossil fuel vehicles is to design and build quad flying cars. If they need an idea of how to build this car, they can look to Israel. They have a nice design that they plan on building for their police force. Ford can build the quad car for Israel and for America.

  • oinonio

    Truth is is the Ford model should never have been followed in the U.S. either. The marketing of Cars=freedom in the US has been so successful we’re blind to the fact that so much our lives, cities and infrastructure are devoted to them, not the humans inside.

  • Anonymous

    Why does Ford see their sales fluctuating with the price of oil? Maybe it’s because their low mileage SUV line continues to experience double digit sales increases.

  • tapra1

    that Ford doesn’t see how that model could work in the developing world. Citing population growth and the massive movement of people from rural areas to megacities, Cischke said there is “unprecedented pressure” on our transportation systems.Best Dedicated Hosting

  • Jonny Walker

    I think we may be a lot closer to getting in our vehicle (the styles can be different and have differing luxury levels), telling it our destination, and the car will tell us how long it will take and then drive us there here