Ford CEO Opens Up on Podcast

Freakonomics Radio’s The Secret Life of CEOs series has returned with a new episode that features Ford CEO Jim Hackett. On the new episode, Hackett joins host Stephen Dubner for an in-depth discussion of trade, tariffs and driverless cars.

The episode is live now at and all podcast providers.

Select highlights of the interview are included below:

On a trade war:
Hackett: The winning state is a state of equilibrium, not a constant fight. A trade war will take away-the tax cut benefit to our citizens right now is going to get wiped out if this current inflation on what they’re calling the Walmart effect. So the goods that people are buying in stores have now been hit. So two-thirds of the tax benefit could be actually wiped out if we don’t get this fixed.

On the term “autonomous” when it comes to vehicles:
Hackett: Let me give you the three letters: it’s called SDS, Self-Driving System is what they’re called. They’re trying to get away from autonomy and have it be labeled this way.

Dubner: Because autonomous is a little too scary and –

Hackett: I think so. And you know-I call it, it’s not human-centered. You know, it’s making the vehicle the celebrant, and we want the people inside.

On monetizing data:
Hackett: We have 100 million people in vehicles today that are sitting in Ford blue-oval vehicles. That’s the case for monetizing opportunity versus an upstart who maybe has, I don’t know, what, they got 120 or 200,000 vehicles in place now. And so just compare the two stacks: which one would you like to have the data from?

Dubner: I hear you entirely. But I also think, “Well, who are the companies that have been good at monetizing customer data?” And we can name them. There’s Facebook, there’s Google, etc. And have they already mastered or owned that market? So what makes you think that Ford can monetize that in any significant way, enough to invest in developing that whole scenario?

Hackett: They don’t own the healthcare data market … They are not controlling aviation data today, you know … Now let’s let that just be an argument that says they’re not everywhere … The issue in the vehicle, see, is: we already know and have data on our customers. By the way, we protect this securely; they trust us. We know what people make. How do we know that? It’s because they borrow money from us. And when you ask somebody what they make, we know where they work, you know; we know if they’re married. We know how long they’ve lived in their house, because these are all on the credit applications. We’ve never ever been challenged on how we use that. And that’s the leverage we got here with the data.

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