Recently, our engines were revved when Ford provided Mankind Unplugged an exclusive opportunity to attend their third annual ‘Go Further with Ford’ conference at the company’s headquarters in Dearborn, MI. We learned about some of the top consumer trends and went behind the scenes for a sneak peek at Ford’s next wave of automotive innovation. After spending three days at the famed auto manufacturer’s headquarters, it was impossible not to walk away inspired and influenced by what the company has to offer consumers.
We were asked to sign up for three trend sessions prior to our arrival. Session choices included ‘Disrupting The Drive,’ ‘Greentopia,’ ‘Returning To Your Senses,’ ‘Sculpting The Future,’ and ‘Trust Is The New Black.’ As we planned our itinerary, there’s no doubt others in attendance had the same thought: What in the technology did we sign up for?
Our question was quickly answered when we touched down in Detroit and received our credentials and agenda. Let’s just say we learned plenty as our friends at Ford inspired us to be the best.
To our delight, key influencers and industry thought leaders from across various industries spoke at the Go Further with Ford Trend Conference. Molly Wood (CNET), Scott Vitters (The Coca-Cola Company), Sherry Turkle (MIT), Jenny Lykken (Google), Seth Godin (best-selling author), Jay Ward (Pixar Animation Studios), Rob Michalak (Ben and Jerry’s), and THE MAN himself Steve Wozniak (co-founder, Apple Computer), graced our presences, with each providing their own story of inspiration. Having them speak to us got everyone extremely enthusiastic although the true excitement was yet to come; later we would have the opportunity to drive the new F150.
Following our first day at the company’s headquarters, we were greeted with a dinner reception and a special ceremony by Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally at the historic Henry Ford Museum. Mr. Mulally set the tone for what was ahead of us in the coming days as he discussed key global trends, which are expected to have significant impact on the future of Ford. We got the chance to experience several cool moments that evening, including seeing Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak on stage alongside Mulally, as well as a behind the scenes tour of the remarkable Henry Ford Museum.
Speaking of the museum, it truly is a reflection of Henry Ford’s personal commitment to preserving the record of America’s technological and cultural progress. Housing a vast array of famous machinery and artifacts, the museum displays rare exhibits including John F. Kennedy’s presidential limousine, Abraham Lincoln’s chair from Ford’s Theater, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop, the Rosa Parks bus, and Bill Elliot’s Coors Light #9 ride (our personal favorite).
TRENDS & STORY TELLING
The following morning, Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company and great-grandson of the company’s founder, kicked off a full day of activities at Ford’s Conference and Event Center, as we prepared for our trend sessions. The first session we attended was titled ‘Sculpting The Future’ and it was definitely the highlight of all the sessions. Esteemed guests, including best-selling author Seth Godin, entrepreneur Rachel Shechtman, Jay Ward (Pixar Animation), and J Mays (VP of Design and CCO for Ford) shared stories about how they got started in their respective industries, and more importantly, the significance of translating good stories into meaningful designs. What resonated the most was how Ford and other successful companies understand how modern trends translate the stories behind the products we use every day into meaningful purpose.
Before moving on to the “Returning To Your Senses” session (which covered how technology has become integrated into every facet of our world, as well as Ford’s research into the well-being of drivers through connectivity), Mankind Unplugged attended the “Disturbing The Drive” panel. This session highlighted the sophistication and innovation of technology, but more importantly served as a platform for Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to discuss what he would like to see in the future as it relates to cars. Let’s just say this guy has an active imagination with big hopes for the future.
In addition to the trend sessions, we were granted access to take a further behind the scenes look at Ford’s Product Development facility. There we had an opportunity to see some of the coolest innovations in design and technology at Ford. We also learned about how the company sends digital files to a 3D printing studio for advanced manufacturing and rapid prototyping, how they go from sketch to reality, and how the Atlas Concept was conceived. One especially intriguing concepts was the Technological Co-Pilots, which explored how Ford advanced technologies help customers drive smarter.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
After being inspired and learning all about the new trends in technology by day, followed by an entertaining evening which included celebrating the Ford’s Mustang turning 50, it was finally time to get behind the wheel. We drove the Fiesta on Ford’s test track and learned all about Ford’s Fusion Energi before taking to the streets of Detroit in a fully loaded F-150. Truth be told, the F-150 was especially exciting to drive; it epitomizes everything a MAN’s car should be. It didn’t hurt that while behind the wheel, Mankind Unplugged had an opportunity to drop off building materials for the Habitat for Detroit.
All in all we had a great time with Ford, but more importantly left feeling like we could go further. The experience was invaluable and the lessons we learned were too many to count. Above all, we will take several things out of the overall experience, including learning about sophisticated software, how technology is becoming an integrated part of our lives and the advantages and disadvantages of being wired in. If nothing else, Ford proved to us that they are on the cutting edge of everything the auto industry has to offer.