Ford Motor Co.'s plans to become an auto and mobility company could have profound effects on the company's dealer network.
The automaker envisions a world in which robot cars are shared rather than owned and in which commuters use other forms of transportation, such as bicycles and shuttles, to get from point A to point B.
That doesn't worry Bill Jarrett, chairman of the Ford National Dealer Council. Jarrett thinks Ford's foray into the future is a good business strategy.
"As we've viewed in the dealer council, you have a 113-year-old company, and you want to make sure you have another 100 years," he said. "You always have to look out 10, 20, 30, 40 years into the future into what this might look like."
Ford last year announced plans to introduce driverless cars -- without steering wheels or accelerator and brake pedals -- for commercial use by 2021. In recent years, it has added a number of active safety features such as backup cameras and lane-keeping assist.
"It continues to prove it's a safer mode of transportation," Jarrett said. "I applaud them for bringing some type of safety guards on all these vehicles. Autonomous driving vehicles that may be a few years away I can only believe will make lives safer. The trick is how it evolves."
Ford executives have stressed that they can balance experimenting with new mobility options while focusing on the core business of selling cars and trucks. To help achieve that balance, Ford created a separate business entity, Ford Smart Mobility, to handle mobility-related ventures.
Jarrett said, "As far as Ford Motor Co. or any manufacturer taking on this vision of where we're going, I believe it's necessary and I don't think we're losing any resources or any line of vision over what's happening today."