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Meet the New Ford, a Silicon Valley Software Company (Q&A)

Ford CEO Mark Fields on electric cars, self-driving and the weird future of his rapidly changing industry.

James Bareham / The Verge

For a guy running a car business, Mark Fields sure doesn’t mind talking about putting fewer cars on the road.

Fields is the charismatic CEO of Ford Motor Company, an honest-to-goodness slice of industrial Americana and an institution of the automobile’s Golden Age. Needless to say, it’s an interesting time to be in his position: Even as Ford and other automakers come off a record year for sales, there’s an awful lot of scary writing on the wall. Car-sharing, ride-sharing, Apple cars, Google cars and Teslas — just to name a few — pose a perfect storm of existential threats that Detroit has never had to deal with before. Not quite like this, anyway.

Can Ford course-correct enough to turn its disruption into a new revenue stream? “Our approach is to first disrupt ourselves,” he said during the course of our recent interview.

By all appearances, that’s not just lip service: Ford recently spun off its next-generation mobility initiatives into a wholly owned subsidiary, Ford Smart Mobility LLC, with operations centered in Palo Alto, Calif.

We sat down with Fields to discuss the spin-off, the state of his business, and what it means for the 103-year-old Ford Motor Company to exist in a post-car world.

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