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USA: Bill Ford looks ahead

The auto industry faces the biggest disruption since the launch of the Model T. Infotech is radically transforming what we drive and how we will travel.

FORTUNE — For more than 30 years, Bill Ford, 54, has pushed his company and the auto industry to be more environmentally friendly. Soon after the great-grandson of Henry Ford first went to work in 1979, he was asked by Ford’s CEO to stop making nice with environmentalists because it was causing too much trouble. (Later Bill Ford got heat from the environmental community, especially in the 1990s, for building gas-guzzling SUVs.) Now the company’s executive chairman, Ford is seeing his efforts to make his company greener come to fruition this year with the global launch of a new series of battery-powered vehicles, including the all-electric Ford Focus. In this article Ford writes about the future of the electric car, the need for a more comprehensive U.S. energy policy, and how a network of cars connected by Wi-Fi technology will revolutionize the way we drive and even the way our cities are designed. –Brian Dumaine

The auto industry is about to go through a major transformation — the biggest I’ve ever seen — and new technology is driving it. For the first time in more than a century, some of the most fundamental and enduring elements of the automobile are being radically transformed. If you look at a car on the 100th anniversary of the Model T, yes, it has evolved dramatically, but it still has a gasoline engine, is sold through a dealership, and has four wheels. Now the pace of change has really stepped up. Electric vehicles are starting to take off. Later this year we’ll launch an entire line of electric cars globally, starting with an all-electric Ford Focus, followed by a plug-in hybrid and an all-electric version of the company’s new global C-MAX vehicle, a sporty five-seater. And we’re not the only ones going electric. GM (GM) and Nissan already have electric vehicles on the road. The other majors have plans to launch their own versions over the next couple of years too.


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