Ford CEO Mark Fields On Donald Trump, Self-Driving Cars And CEO Pay

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Ford CEO Mark Fields delivers a speech during his visit to a Ford factory in Valencia, Spain, in February 2015. (David Ramos/Getty Images)
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During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump attacked Ford Motor Company for moving some of its production to Mexico, and was accused of sending jobs out of the U.S.

In a View From The Top conversation, Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson speaks with Mark Fields, president and CEO of Ford Motor Company, about those accusations. They also discuss how Fields hopes to work with the new administration, the future of self-driving cars and CEO compensation.

Interview Highlights

On Trump’s criticism of Ford for moving some production to Mexico

“To put things into perspective, the focus that we’re moving down to Mexico is to make room for two very important products in the plant in Michigan. So actually, there’s going to be no jobs impacted. But when you look at things like tariffs, that would impact the entire auto sector, and that obviously would have an impact on the U.S. economy. So we want to make sure that we engage in a very productive dialogue with the policymakers on this.”

On the benefits of moving production to Mexico

“There’s a lot of different factors. Obviously from a labor standpoint, it is less expensive — by a number of magnitudes. But then you have to put in there freight costs and things of that nature. When we look at our production in Mexico, first off, we’ve been in Mexico for 90 years. But also when you look at the majority of our production, and you look at our capital expenditures and [research and development] expenditures, the majority of that by far is done in the Untied States. We have more than 10 times the number of employees in the U.S. than we do in Mexico. And we also produce more vehicles in the U.S. and employ more hourly workers than any other car maker.”

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On moving toward more energy-efficient cars

“First off we look at it from a consumer standpoint. Whether it’s $2 a gallon for a gallon of gas or $4 or $5, people still want good fuel economy, and that’s what’s been driving us over the last number of years — to have vehicles that are either the best or among the best in fuel economy in each and every segment that we compete. But then as we go forward, as we said, we agreed back in 2011 to the fuel economy standards that were set. But we agreed that there would be a midterm review. That midterm review takes place in 2018, and we want to make sure that’s a fact-based discussion, and that the regulations are aligned with market realities.”

On autonomous vehicles and the auto industry’s future

“We think the next decade is going to be defined in the auto industry by the automation of the vehicle. And our intent is to have a fully autonomous — what we call a level four vehicle, where the passenger doesn’t need to take control at any time — in 2021, in a ride-sharing or ride-hailing service. And as we go out, our estimation is by the time we get to 2030, one in every five vehicles could be an autonomous vehicle. And so we think it’s going to change the dynamics quite greatly, particularly in urban areas, and that’s why we want to be a leader in this area. And we’ve been working on autonomous vehicles for over 10 years.”

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