Why Your Car Will Become Even More Like an iPhone
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Why Your Car Will Become Even More Like an iPhone

Doug Field, who left Apple for Ford in September, talks about automation and Detroit vs. Silicon Valley.

By MIKE COLIAS
Fri, Nov 5, 2021 11:04amGrey Clock 4 min

Car companies are trying to change a century-old business model: Make a car, sell it, and hope the customer comes back years later to buy another one.

Instead, they’re increasingly developing vehicles as digital devices, with the ability to remotely beam new services and features to the car that could make it easier and more fun to use—while notching extra revenue.

For traditional auto makers, the ability to update cars like an iPhone is in its infancy, though Tesla Inc. pioneered the practice. When Ford Motor Co. was looking for help with the digital transition, it plucked Doug Field, a former Tesla and Apple Inc. executive, to lead the charge in coming up with new digital features to foster an “always-on” connection to customers.

Mr. Field spent five years at Tesla, including as engineering chief, where he helped develop the Model 3. He did two stints at Apple, most recently starting in 2018 as vice president of special projects, before joining Ford in September.

He talked to The Future of Everything about what to expect from the car-ownership experience in the years ahead. Electrification and at least partial automation will be the norm, he predicts. For auto makers, the real differentiator will be offering an immersive experience, transforming the vehicle into a home-entertainment studio, gaming platform or conference room.

“The disruption in the auto industry, driven by software, autonomy and electrification, is going to be as big as anything that’s happened in the last century,” Mr. Field says.

What’s a feature or service that, five years from now, people won’t think twice about spending $20 or $30 a month to get?

Autonomy is the best example. You might choose different packages, a subscription-based service for how the vehicle operates autonomously. That’s already the way it works at Tesla. Once you have autonomy, you’ve unlocked the ability to do other things in the vehicle. Today, there are features that are fully hands off, but you’ve got to keep your eyes on the road. I’m talking hands off, eyes off [in the future]. And if you need to drive again, you have plenty of notice. It’s a very gentle experience to take over, and if you don’t, there’s a very gentle response to pull over into a safe situation. It’ll be a much smoother transition between humans and autonomy than this idea of a big switch that gets flipped from one to the other.

Will car owners be able to remotely choose features a la carte?

Content absolutely will be a la carte. You’ll see certain types of connectivity and features that might involve a situation where, for example, a car is shared by five people. You could have a circle of friends who decide they’re going to buy a car together. There’s a little scheduling app that basically keeps track of who’s going to use the vehicle when, making sure that it’s charged in between. So it’s not just the software inside the vehicle, but it’s also the services that free people from the burden of car ownership while maintaining their connection with the product.

In that scenario, you could customize things for each owner?

Through software, yes. Successful tech companies build hardware carefully, with not a huge amount of variation, and then put the variation in those products through software. A lot of the [auto] industry has grown up with massive variation. With technology differences, you have a fundamentally differentiated product. You don’t have to chop your lineup into all these tiny little slices. You’re going to have fewer models.

So people will choose their vehicles for different reasons in the future?

You don’t show off your phone anymore. And your identity doesn’t feel threatened when somebody else has an iPhone 13. My differentiation is in things like my Twitter page or my Instagram. It’s a very different way that people create their identity, whereas in the past, a car was a big part of that. I think that will largely fade away. There will always be niche products that are really unique and fun to drive and heavily styled, like Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Horses didn’t go away when cars came along, but they became recreational. Sports cars will be recreational.

Can the car companies compete with Big Tech on digital services and user interface?

Where the auto manufacturers can do things that are really special are vehicle-specific. The companies that do this really well will have products that people will walk out of their homes and sit in for the experience, even if they’re not going anywhere. A company that does this right could theoretically take the wheels off and plop it in your backyard and it’s a product, like an Airstream. It becomes fundamentally the best place you could have a conference call or listen to music or watch a movie.

We talk a lot about Detroit versus Silicon Valley. Where is that battle headed?

This story is being written right now, and the outcome is not yet clear. Technology transitions allow a whole bunch of new people to come in. These people come in with a blank slate, they get to shed all the baggage. The path for a [traditional auto maker] is to figure out how to leverage history and shed baggage, and that is very, very hard. There’s a race on. Are [auto makers] going to learn tech and customer experience faster than the startups are going to learn high-volume, high-quality, low-cost production and a bunch of other things people take for granted in cars? It’s a race.

Interview has been condensed and edited.

 

Reprinted by permission of WSJ. Magazine. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: November 4, 2021.



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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