Legacy automakers face the challenge of a digital future epitomized by Tesla, with its EV product portfolio and online direct purchasing system, and Ford has responded by creating a position that it says is responsible for data, software, and technology reporting directly to CEO Jim Farley.
The Dearborn, Mich. automaker chose Mike Amend (43), previously president, online, at Lowe’s, for the job.
“Mike adds dimension to our team as we use technology and software to transform our company and transportation from the inside-out,” said Farley. “Ford has always been an innovator in vehicles; now we’re taking our digital capabilities to new levels to further differentiate ourselves with customers and from competitors.”
The company says that Amend will be in charge of Ford’s Technology and Software Platform, which consists of the Enterprise Information Technology, Global Data Insight and Analytics, and Ford Business Solutions functions. His task is to help translate customer needs into software solutions while working closely with Hau Thai-Tang, the company’s chief product platform and operations officer, and Doug Field, who joined Ford last week as chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer.
“Ford’s hiring of Mike Amend illustrates the growing importance of all things digital, including digital retailing,” explained Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Cox Automotive. “We have long predicted that digital retailing – or online shopping – would transform the automotive retail process. Consumers have been asking for years that more of the car-buying process move online,” she said. “In fact, our last annual Car Buyer Journey study show two out of three shoppers surveyed wanted to do more of their car buying online. The pandemic forced the issue and there’s no stopping its acceleration now. Consumers aren’t going back.”
Amend’s credentials are encouraging that he will succeed at this difficult assignment, said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.com. “Mike Amend has an impressive pedigree related to online sales, though that history is with companies offering a wide range of products to sell online,” he said.
Ford Motor Co.
“Ford’s online sales are limited to cars and subscriptions, which may prove tougher to monetize in the digital space. Of course, every company is chasing subscription revenue, and if Ford can establish a foothold, it will bolster the automaker’s long-term financial outlook,” Brauer continued. The real challenge will be providing compelling value that Ford's customers want to pay for every month. Most automakers have struggled in this area but given the potential upside they can’t afford to give up.”
Amend expressed optimism for the assignment. “I'm excited to join Ford at such a pivotal time in the company and the industry,” he said. “We’re completely reimagining digital experiences for our customers, colleagues, dealers, and partners, and will use technology and real-time data to bring that vision to life.”
In his three years at Lowe’s, Amend’s team revolutionized the home-improvement retailer’s online business, achieving record results and earning broad industry recognition. Under his leadership, the company’s online sales nearly tripled. Matching that record in the auto industry might be unrealistic, but Ford’s decision to try is a step in the right direction.