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Driverless Trucks at Ford: Cruising into a Compromised Brand Identity?
Venkatesan, Rajkumar; Craddock, Jenny Case M-0967 / Published January 31, 2019 / 24 pages.
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Product Overview

Ford's F-Series of trucks were first introduced in 1948, and ever since they have represented American identity for their consumers. Both earned media, in movies like Urban Cowboy, and Ford's paid media positioned Ford as part of the pioneering culture. Ford also constantly introduced innovations to the F-Series to make the trucks more suitable to the changing needs of its consumers. In 2018, Ford's management decided to retreat from the low-margin cars segment and focus on trucks and SUVs. Ford was also working toward robot taxis and driverless delivery by 2021. These two parallel trajectories converge to pose a pivotal challenge for Ford: Should the company invest in developing driverless capabilities for its best-selling and highest-margin product, the F-150? The case provides students with a context in which to discuss the changing technologies in the auto industry and their implications for industry structure, along with the specific aspects of software-driven business models, consumer preferences, and brand identity. It also offers an opportunity to explore the challenges faced by traditional businesses as they develop digital capabilities and reimagine their business models to fully leverage artificial intelligence (AI). The competition among Ford, Google Inc. (Google), Uber Technologies, Inc. (Uber), and Tesla, Inc. (Tesla) in the automonous vehicle industry highlights the different routes these companies have taken to obtain develop autonomous vehicle capability that leverages their respective strategic capabilities.


Learning Objectives

(1) To discuss the platforms, networked business models, and the ingredients for their success. (2) To explore the role of brand identity in a driverless economy. (3) To understand the value of customer relationships and brand identity when AI and algorithms are integral parts of a product experience. (4) To learn about economics of a software-first business model. (5) To understand how first-party customer data and the right product portfolio can create switching costs. (6) To visualize potential scenarios in which automation affects an industry and understand the implications of these scenarios for incumbents and disrupters.

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  • Overview

    Ford's F-Series of trucks were first introduced in 1948, and ever since they have represented American identity for their consumers. Both earned media, in movies like Urban Cowboy, and Ford's paid media positioned Ford as part of the pioneering culture. Ford also constantly introduced innovations to the F-Series to make the trucks more suitable to the changing needs of its consumers. In 2018, Ford's management decided to retreat from the low-margin cars segment and focus on trucks and SUVs. Ford was also working toward robot taxis and driverless delivery by 2021. These two parallel trajectories converge to pose a pivotal challenge for Ford: Should the company invest in developing driverless capabilities for its best-selling and highest-margin product, the F-150? The case provides students with a context in which to discuss the changing technologies in the auto industry and their implications for industry structure, along with the specific aspects of software-driven business models, consumer preferences, and brand identity. It also offers an opportunity to explore the challenges faced by traditional businesses as they develop digital capabilities and reimagine their business models to fully leverage artificial intelligence (AI). The competition among Ford, Google Inc. (Google), Uber Technologies, Inc. (Uber), and Tesla, Inc. (Tesla) in the automonous vehicle industry highlights the different routes these companies have taken to obtain develop autonomous vehicle capability that leverages their respective strategic capabilities.

  • Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    (1) To discuss the platforms, networked business models, and the ingredients for their success. (2) To explore the role of brand identity in a driverless economy. (3) To understand the value of customer relationships and brand identity when AI and algorithms are integral parts of a product experience. (4) To learn about economics of a software-first business model. (5) To understand how first-party customer data and the right product portfolio can create switching costs. (6) To visualize potential scenarios in which automation affects an industry and understand the implications of these scenarios for incumbents and disrupters.