Ford Motor Co chief executive officer Mark Fields remembers being treated like a Neanderthal when he joined Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates on stage at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to introduce the Sync in-car infotainment system.
Skeptical journalists in 2007 could not seem to understand what Fields, who then ran Ford businesses throughout the Americas, was doing at a show known for cutting-edge phones and video games, he said.
Coming from old industry, he jokes that they asked: “Why aren’t your knuckles dragging across the floor?”
Now cars are among the main attractions at the International CES, which opens on Tuesday next week, featuring vehicles with touchscreen dashboards and others controlled by smartwatches. Fields is making a triumphant return as Ford’s chief executive officer, where he is set to deliver a speech about the dawn of the connected-car era. Daimler AG chief executive officer Dieter Zetsche is slated to be there, too, discussing the concept of a self-driving Mercedes-Benz. They join a record 10 automakers showing their wares on an exhibit space the size of three football fields.
“CES has become a major launch point for a lot of the big automakers,” IHS tenchnology analyst Mark Boyadjis said. “CES is a way for them to get on a global stage for technology.”
The evolution of Ford’s CES exhibit tells the story of the automotive ascent at the trade show that attracts 140,000 visitors. Five years ago, Ford displayed its new Taurus on a 6m-by-6m piece of carpet.
This year, Ford has a two-story display with five vehicles, a wall of digital screens and private offices for conducting business.
Ford is not alone. This year, Volkswagen AG makes its debut at the show that also includes Toyota Motor Corp, General Motors Co, Hyundai Motor Co, Mazda Motor Corp, Audi, BMW AG and FCA US LLC, formerly known as Chrysler Group LLC.
BMW, in its second year at CES, has a sprawling exhibit that includes a fleet of more than 100 cars and covers 5,300m2 of space just outside the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Visteon Corp, a supplier of technology to car cockpits, doubled the size of its display, a gleaming silver and orange structure that houses three demonstrator vehicles and four private offices.
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