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Ford’s new CEO names Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Baidu as biggest rivals

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Ford's new CEO names Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Baidu as biggest rivals 2

  • Jim Farley, Ford’s current COO and incoming CEO, didn’t mention General Motors or Fiat Chrysler when discussing Ford’s competition during a Tuesday conference call.
  • “We know our competition today: It’s Amazon, Baidu, Tesla, Apple, Toyota, and others,” he said.
  • Farley wasn’t just trying to impress investors, two auto industry experts told Business Insider. Silicon Valley is making significant investments in electric and self-driving cars.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The rivalry between Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler has defined the American auto industry for over a century, but Ford’s newly named CEO isn’t just looking beyond Detroit to identify the automaker’s biggest threats. He’s looking beyond the auto industry altogether. 

Jim Farley, who is currently Ford’s COO and will replace Jim Hackett as CEO in October, named five companies when discussing his company’s opponents during a Tuesday conference call. 

“We know our competition today: It’s Amazon, Baidu, Tesla, Apple, Toyota, and others,” he said. GM and FCA, apparently, didn’t make the cut. (This despite the fact that Farley once said of GM, “I hate them and their company and what they stand for.”) 

Farley wasn’t merely posturing to please a stock market that has bid up the prices of electric-vehicle and tech companies in recent months, two auto industry experts told Business Insider. Silicon Valley is making a genuine effort to develop the next generation of automotive technology, and needs to be taken seriously.

“The competitive landscape is far different than it used to be,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst at Cox Automotive.

Amazon has in the past year ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian and acquired the autonomous-vehicle startup Zoox. Baidu is seen by some as a leader in automated-driving technology. Apple’s CarPlay has become a fixture among automotive infotainment systems, even if its self-driving research has been slow to show results. And Tesla’s stock price was 191 times greater than Ford‘s when markets opened on Tuesday. These four companies also compete against Ford for talent, said Michael Ramsey, an analyst at Gartner.

Farley “is recognizing that if they want to be super competitive in the future, they have to consider those companies competition, and not just the traditional companies that they sell cars against,” Ramsey said.

Farley has held a variety of positions since joining Ford in 2007, including one focused on connectivity, mobility services, and self-driving cars. He’s played a critical role in developing Ford’s electric and autonomous-vehicle strategies, Krebs said. He isn’t likely to stray too far from the path outlined by Hackett, who oversaw Ford’s investments in Rivian and the autonomous-vehicle startup Argo AI, as well as a plan to invest $11 billion in EVs between 2018 and 2022. 

One of Farley’s challenges will be to articulate Ford’s plans better than Hackett did. The outgoing CEO received criticism at times for failing to describe a clear strategy for the company, Ramsey said. On Tuesday’s call, Farley began to outline his vision for Ford’s future by highlighting what he believes are the company’s primary growth opportunities — including commercial electric vehicles, automated-driving tech, and software and infrastructure products — and expressing confidence that Ford will hold its own against its Silicon Valley rivals.

“I’m feeling fantastic about our ability to compete,” he said.

Get the latest Ford stock price here.

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