Ford creates separate unit for self-driving cars

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. announced Tuesday plans to break out its autonomous vehicle business into a new organization headquartered at the company's Corktown campus, and has committed to invest $4 billion into those efforts through 2023.

Ford Autonomous Vehicles will house all parts of Ford's self-driving vehicle business. It's a signal from the Dearborn-based automaker that its autonomous vehicle research is gaining traction, and the various facets of the company's autonomous vehicle business are reaching a point where they need to break out from under the Ford Smart Mobility umbrella.

The new entity will be led by Sherif Marakby, who is currently vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification. He'll be CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles and report to a board chaired by Marcy Klevorn, Ford's president of Mobility. Ford Smart Mobility also reports to Klevorn.

Ford Autonomous Vehicles will house all parts of Ford's self-driving vehicle business.


Ford plans to invest $4 billion in its autonomous vehicle efforts to include the $1 billion investment in Argo that was announced in early 2017. It has said it will bring to market its first fully functioning autonomous vehicle without pedals or a steering wheel by 2021. 

Ford stock was trading up 2.2 percent at $10.70 per share Tuesday morning on the news.

“Ford has made tremendous progress across the self-driving value chain – from technology development to business model innovation to user experience,” said Jim Hackett, Ford president and CEO, in a news release. “Now is the right time to consolidate our autonomous driving platform into one team to best position the business for the opportunities ahead.”

The new unit includes teams working on self-driving systems, autonomous vehicle research, advanced engineering, autonomous vehicle transportation network development, and user experience, along with business strategy and development teams. The unit will also hold Ford's ownership stake in Pittsburgh-based Argo AI, which is developing the virtual driving system for Ford's autonomous vehicles.

Marakby will hold an office at Ford's Corktown campus, which should include a sprawling urban space anchored by the redeveloped Michigan Central Depot by 2022. The autonomous unit will have teams in Dearborn and Ann Arbor as well.

Ford Smart Mobility will continue to handle the company's various mobility ventures, including the Chariot shuttle service, fleet management and other ventures.

The change announced Tuesday set of a series of management shifts within the company. 

Ted Cannis, global director of electrification, will lead Team Edison, the segment of the company charged with boosting the company's electrification efforts. That team will report to Jim Farley, president of global markets.

Ford is also reorganizing the flow of its global operations division led by Joe Hinrichs. That segment will now include the company's information technology business, as well as the global order-to-delivery system. Jeff Lemmer, chief information officer, will report to Hinrichs.

Hinrichs will be tasked with development of a system to help Ford utilize data and technology to improve Ford internally, as well as the products it offers.

Hau Thai-Tang, executive vice president of product development, will now report directly to Hackett. Thai-Tang most recently reported to Hinrichs, and under Hackett will lead teams as Ford moves to a flexible vehicle architecture plan announced in the first quarter of 2018.

The company aims to cut product development time by 20 percent by using five architectures across its future line up: body-on-frame, front-wheel-drive unibody, rear-wheel-drive unibody, commercial van unibody and battery electric. 

The organizational changes are effective Aug. 1.    

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau