Driverless Trucks at Ford: Cruising into a Compromised Brand Identity?

Case Solution

Rajkumar Venkatesan, Jenny Craddock
Darden School of Business ()

Ford’s F-series truck was first introduced in 1948 and has represented the American identity to its consumers ever since. Both earned media, in movies like Urban Cowboy, and Ford’s paid media, positioned Ford as part of the pioneer culture. Ford also continually innovated the F Series to better tailor trucks to the changing needs of its consumers. In 2018, Ford management decided to withdraw from the low-margin passenger car segment and focus on trucks and SUVs. Ford also worked on robotic taxis and driverless deliveries through 2021. These two parallel paths converge and pose a key challenge for Ford: Should the company invest in developing driverless features for its highest-margin, best-selling product, the F150? ? The case provides students with a context in which to discuss the changing technologies in the automotive industry and their impact on the structure of the industry, as well as the specifics of software-driven business models, consumer preferences, and brand identity. It also provides the opportunity to explore the challenges traditional companies face in developing digital skills and redesigning their business models to take full advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The competition between Ford, Google Inc. (Google), Uber Technologies, Inc. (Uber) and Tesla, Inc. (Tesla) in the automotive industry highlights the various avenues these companies have taken to develop autonomous vehicle capabilities that leverage their respective strategic capabilities.

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