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Aug 13

Ford Motor Company World Headquarters Dearborn MI
Ford Motor Company World HQ in Dearborn, MI

As the economy returns, car manufacturers like the Ford Motor Company need to reach out to potential customers in their target markets more now than ever. One way Ford does is by hosting several traditional media events throughout the year and the Ford Trends Conference, typically held at the start of summer in Dearborn, Michigan at their world headquarters. I was invited and recently went to their HQ to attend several of their sessions with titles like Female Frontier, Sustainability Blues and Decoding Design. Ford brings in some of the top minds in fashion, art, technology and conservation to relay to the invited bloggers what to look for in the coming five to ten years.

Michael A Guido Theater Ford Community and Performing Arts Center
Michael A Guido Theater Ford Community and Performing Arts Center

In addition to hosting the Ford Trends Conference every year, they participate in possibly the most important car show, the North American International Auto Show held in Detroit. I’ve been lucky to have been invited to several events by Ford over the years to see what it means for cars and trucks to be made right here in the USA.

Ford Rouge Plant Summer 2014
Ford Rouge Plant Summer 2014

The Ford Trends Conference 2014 was held at the end of June. Summer is a good time to be in Michigan, the weather is calmer and that means more time on the test track. I also like covering Ford’s events as they usually introduce several pieces of automotive tech, like what I saw last December at their pre NAIAS rollout.

Detroit Airport DTW Water Show
Detroit Airport DTW Water Show

My trip to The D or Detroit was nice. I flew in the morning from Las Vegas, on Delta Airlines non-stop with access to Gogo’s in-flight WiFi.


Detroit Light Tunnel and WET water show. That’s the same company that made Bellagio Las Vegas’ fountains show.

Four hours later, I landed at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport or DTW, in Romulus, Michigan. I had heard from a fellow traveler not to miss the colorful light show in the tunnel-connecting Concourse A and Concourse B and C in the McNamara Terminal. I’m glad I took some time to appreciate what Detroit is doing to welcome its visitors from around the world.

Detroit Airport DTW Delta 747 Jet
Delta 747 at Detroit Metro Airport DTW

Detroit’s International airport has another Vegas style ace up its sleeve. A AAA rated Four Star Westin hotel directly connected to the terminal. That’s where I would be staying after collecting my luggage. Guests staying overnight who are not booked on a flight may obtain a pass to enter the concourses to visit shops and restaurants.

Westin Detroit Airport Hotel DTWWestin Detroit Airport Hotel DTW

DTW is one of only two airports in the USA participating in the Airport Access Authorization to Commercial Establishments Beyond the Screen Checkpoint or AAACE. Guests will need to be cleared through the same security background check or Secure Flight and TSA screening process, in order to access the terminal area. I was too busy with Ford events to experience that process for myself.

Ford had a packet of information for me that included a name badge and an itinerary of events that I would be participating in over the next two days. I needed to be ready for the first event in a few hours, so I grabbed a quick snack and headed up to my room.

The last time I stayed at the Westin at DTW, my room keycard didn’t work. Neither did my neighbors. During our wait to gain access to our rooms we talked about where we had flown in from and what we were doing in Detroit. It was good to meet a fellow blogger, from Brazil.

Skies Above Detroit Airport DTW
Skies Above Detroit Airport DTW

I happened to be on the Starwood Preferred Guest or SPG floor this time, which starts on seven. It was a quieter floor than I thought it would be being located in an International airport. I also liked how fast the WiFi was, which tested at about 35Mbps.

The first event with my group was to be at the Ford Performance Center in Dearborn, a few cities away. We were lucky enough to enjoy the trip via a luxury coach. I sat next to an editor of a digital news site out of Australia. I like how Ford reaches out to bloggers and media types from around the world.

Once inside of the Ford Performing Arts Center, we entered a ballroom off to the right. It had food stations on all sides, a round bar in the middle, a giant stage in front where the presentations would be made and two covered vehicles.

Ford Go Further First Night
Ford Go Further First Night

The shrouded vehicles were going to be introduced to the invited blogging community and traditional media at the same time. Releasing a new vehicle to the public at the same time as traditional media is another smart move by Ford. That strategy has worked well for them in the past.

A spokesperson from Ford started off the evening by announcing who the company’s next CEO would be. Mark Fields replaced Alan Mulally as CEO at the start of July.

Mr Fields welcomed us to the start of the Ford Trends Conference and proceeded to talk about a preview of his vision for the company. Shortly thereafter, he asked the speakers up onto the stage.

Mark Fields CEO of Ford Motor Company Kenneth Cole Clay Christensen
Mark Fields CEO of Ford Motor Company Kenneth Cole and Clay Christensen

Clay Christensen, a Harvard Professor, came up and talked about business trends now, five and tens years from now and how they might apply to the auto industry. Kenneth Cole joined them about twenty minutes later and talked about how he started his company. I liked both discussions, but Kenneth’s resonated more with the entrepreneurs in the crowd.

Ford Edge 2015 Circular
Ford Edge 2015 Circular Stage

At this point in the evening, I was beginning to wonder when the new cars would be introduced. Mr. Fields stood up and motioned that everyone look at the center bar area. Dramatic music started playing and the round screen above the central bar raised to lights going back and forth.

Ford Edge 2015 Gold
Ford Edge 2015 Gold

It was the unveiling of the first of three Ford Edge 2015 crossover vehicles. Then the covers on the two Ford Edge cars near me were pulled off. On my left I saw the 2015 Ford Edge Sport and on my right was another 2015 Ford Edge in a different color. The Blue Oval is going for a more modern front with bright LED lamps.

The first night with Ford was different than others I had experienced in the past. This was the first time I had been to Ford’s Performing Arts Center. Their beginning sessions are usually held at the Henry Ford Museum. In fact, none of the sessions or evenings were held at the museum. Maybe they were having other events there. Either way, I liked seeing a different side to how the company presented a new vehicle launch.

Ford Trends Conference 2014 Breakfast
Ford Trends Conference 2014 Breakfast

Breakfast on the second day started off early on a lower floor in a Westin ballroom. It was setup to announce something else to the group. We all took a seat and then I heard a buzzing noise from behind the stage. It was a kid on a Fischer Price F-150 Power Wheels toy truck. The toy had enough power to climb a ramp up to the stage.

Power Wheels Ford F-150 Toy Truck
Power Wheels Ford F-150 Toy Truck

Power Wheels announced that they are now licensing the F-150 brand and Ford’s Blue Oval logo. Their new toys come in four designs for girls and boys at $249. If only these little trucks were available when I was a kid! I guess I could always buy the real thing.

It was time to board the buses again and head over the Ford Motor Company World Headquarters in Dearborn. There we joined employees and speakers for the start of the Trends Conference sessions. It was my first visit inside of the HQ main building. It reminded me of what futuristic architecture looked like from the 1960’s.

Ford Trends Conference 2014 Start
Ford Trends Conference 2014 Start

Their amphitheater was large enough to hold all of us. A Ford representative made a few comments about how the day was going to work and why everyone was there.

Ford Trends Conference 2014


Female Frontier Ford Trends Conference 2014

First session was called the Female Frontier. The excellent speakers with great personal stories were Chantel Lenard, Director U.S. Marketing, Ford Motor Company, Jennifer Senior, Contributing editor, New York Magazine, Jenna Wolfe, News correspondent, NBC Today and John Gerzema, New York Times best-selling author. The most interesting speakers of the group were Chantel Lenard and Jenna Wolfe. All had excellent statistics about women around the world and what that means for the future. Jenna’s personal story about making it as a sports reporter is a universal one to overcoming nearly impossible odds.

Sustainability Blues Ford Trends Conference 2014 Panelists
Sustainability Blues Ford Trends Conference 2014 Panelists


Sustainability Blues Ford Trends Conference 2014

Second session was called the Sustainability Blues. Todd Walton, Manager, Environmental Quality Office, Ford Motor Company, Christoph Gorder, Chief global water officer, charity: water, Rob Frederick Vice president and director, Corporate Responsibility, Brown-Forman and George McGraw, Founder and executive director, DIGDEEP were the speakers on this panel discussion. These environmental and socially concisions speakers discussed how they are charging the world around them by reducing, reusing and discovering new ways of providing it with water. Todd Walton discussed how Ford was able to reduce their global water consumption by 62% or 10.6 billion gallons from 2000 to 2012. They are now providing assistance to their parts suppliers and surrounding communities of how to save water.

Decoding Design Ford Trends Conference 2014 Gadi Amit
Decoding Design Ford Trends Conference 2014 Gadi Amit

Decoding Design Ford Trends Conference 2014 Jane McGonigal
Decoding Design Ford Trends Conference 2014 Jane McGonigal


Decoding Design Ford Trends Conference 2014

My third and final session at the Ford Trends Conference 2014 was called Decoding Design. The speakers on this panel were Moray Callum, Vice president, Design, Ford Motor Company, Gadi Amit, Founder, NewDealDesign, Robert Tercek, Interactive content creator and Jane McGonigal, Game designer and author. Robert was the panel moderator that asked superb questions to all of the panelists. Gadi and Jane were my favorite speakers on this panel. Gadi talked about the upcoming Project Asha from Google, a modular smartphone born out of the need that some want to upgrade only parts of their device rather than buying a new one every six months. Jane talked about women in technology and how her team used game theory to help better teach children different subjects in school.

Going inside of the Blue Oval of Ford was about more than touring their offices or hearing from various world-class speakers. We also got an amazing opportunity to go behind the scenes and experience their tough testing facility, virtual reality lab, find out what they are doing to keep people safe in their cars and see how 2,000 people build the top selling truck over the last 30 years, the F-150.

Ford Tough Testing Facility
Ford Tough Testing Facility


Ford Tough Testing Facility

Their tough testing facility showed us various parts of how their engineers trial doors opening and closing in extreme weather conditions, how various seats hold up against robot torsos sitting on them and how their new aluminum F150 truck chassis stays together after an equivalent of 10 years and 150k miles of abuse in various road conditions.

Ford’s virtual reality lab was a hands-on experience that showed off how their engineers are working in the cloud with ultra-high-definition technology to collaboratively create cars of the future. Engineers in Europe and Asia may now contribute designs for all systems in real-time. The only other instance I’ve seen this level of computing power used to design future technology was at NASA.


Automated Parking Assist At Ford’s HQ Test Track

Keeping people safe in cars and trucks is a top mission at Ford. People’s lives are at stake. They understand this and do everything they can to create assistive technology tested in real life that eventually gets integrated into their vehicles.

Ford HQ Test Track Start
Ford HQ Test Track Start

Their test track had crossover vehicles equipped with automatic parallel and perpendicular parking assist, a Ford Edge 2015 model, a robotically driven van assisted by GPS and a smart lane keeping assist program with adaptive cruise control.

Ford HQ Test Track
Ford HQ Test Track Passenger View

I experienced the adaptive cruise control system on the same test track last December, during their preview event for the North American International Auto Show 2014.

Ford Rouge Factory Tour Entrance
Ford Rouge Factory Tour Entrance


Ford River Rouge Visitors Center Tour 2013

Visiting Ford’s River Rouge F-150 truck assembly plant was the last location on the list to visit. The plant is the culmination of over a 100 years worth of engineering innovations. 2,000 auto workers, a team of robots and miles of conveyer equipment build an F-150 every 60 seconds. One of the tour guides mentioned that the company currently sells an F-150 truck every 46 seconds.

Ford Rouge Plant Living Roof Section
Ford Rouge Plant Living Roof Section

The Rouge facility has a living roof and a water filtering road that surrounds it for miles. The fauna atop the assembly plant had grown significantly since I saw it last. Rain in Dearborn had been well above normal, which turned several of the plants several shades of green and light brown. Like the living roof, the road around the F-150 plant filters water before it’s returned back to the river. They take care of the special road by vacuuming debris, rather than sweeping it away.

Ford Rouge Plant F-150 Presentation
Ford Rouge Plant F-150 Presentation

Inside of the plant, the smaller tour group I was assigned to got to see up close how Ford is using 200 new patents to build a better front light panel, aluminum chassis, 400 watt power plugs, a sonic water self cleaning front camera and a rear lift gate that has an integrated fold out step with handle.

Ford Rouge Plant F-150 LED Lights
Ford Rouge Plant F-150 LED Lights

Their highly skilled engineers gave us a few minutes at each station to evaluate the new technology. Ford’s F-150 front LED system is completely solid state with no cooling fans attached on the back. This cooling design ensures a longer lasting system. Replacing a broken fixture is as easy as unscrewing the assembly and sliding it out.

Ford Rouge Plant F-150 Aluminum Scratch
Ford Rouge Plant F-150 Aluminum Scratch

The type of aluminum they use on the new F-150 stands up to harsh weather conditions well. A side door panel that was dented and scratched several months ago had no signs of deterioration.

Another station had a large LED HDTV setup on a truck bed. It was hooked up to one of two plugs that provide a total of 400 watts of power. Tailgate in style with a TV big enough so that everyone in the family has a great view.

Ford Rouge F-150 Front Camera
F-150 Front Camera At Ford Rouge

A 360 view around the truck is now possible with Ford’s new camera and lighting system. But what do you do when mud inevitably splashes onto the front grill? Their sonic water spraying system can immediately clean off the lens for the front camera at a touch of a button. They demonstrated how it worked by applying mud to the lens. I heard a short buzzing sound a moment later and the video on the test screen was clear once again.

Ford listens to customer feedback for all of their vehicles. The previous rear lift gate had a fold out step, but it didn’t stow away to allow sliding things in and out easy. The new fold out step and balancing handle stows completely underneath the truck bed. For people who use the F-150 to haul things everyday, this one change makes a big difference.

Going further with Ford, in Dearborn, showed me an immense amount of what they are planning in the next five to ten years. It also gave me an opportunity to see how Ford has progressed since my last few visits.


Ford F-150 Rouge Plant Intro

They have come a long way in the amount of technology used in cars, but also in their production facilities like the Rouge Plant that builds the F-150 truck. Fortunately, leaving Detroit wasn’t the end to learning about the Ford Motor Company.


Mississippi River and Ford Dam

I decided to go further for Ford by visiting the Ford Dam in Minneapolis, Minnesota. While on a short trip to see extended family, an uncle showed me the Ford Dam and Ford Parkway Bridge. Both are located between Minneapolis and St Paul. It was located next to where Ford used to build the Ranger truck.

Ford Lock and Dam Minneapolis Minnesota
Ford Lock and Dam Minneapolis Minnesota

What amazed me by the Ford facility was ambitious enough to build a dual lock and dam across the immense Mississippi River. The river topped its fifth highest level since records began, so walking up to it this close was a great experience.

Ford Dam Overlook St Paul Minnesota
Ford Dam Overlook St Paul Minnesota Photo by James Fischer

Seeing a company like the Ford Motor Company engineer, build and produce a product in the USA gives me hope for the future. They hold yearly informative events across the country, like hackathons, to inspire others to help preserve the environment and grow the economy. The opportunities a Fortune 500 company gives to bloggers like me is always appreciated.

Disclaimer: Ford provided travel and accommodations to attend the Trends Conference 2014 in Michigan. I did not receive compensation for this recap. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

One Response to “Go Further With Ford Showcasing Key Trends In 2014”

  1. Further With Ford 2015 Silicon Valley San Francisco Preview » The Macintosh Wizard And PC Tech Blog Says:

    […] year’s Further With Ford 2014 event was held at their world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. I like the idea of the venue […]