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Darren Palmer: Transforming the Automotive and Mobility Industry

“Freedom of movement drives human progress.” 

Darren Palmer, the global director of Battery Electric Vehicles product development at Ford Motor Company, opened his keynote address at the 2020 MICHauto Summit with this Ford philosophy. Palmer continued to explain how his team is harnessing the new automotive frontier of battery electric vehicles to transform one of the industry’s most iconic brands.

Team Edison, a small, diverse group of Ford employees formed in December 2017, was designated to lead this work and projects like the Mustang Mach-E. Operating as a startup within a 100-year-old company allowed Palmer and his team to carefully navigate the industry’s changing landscape.  

“We think big, act small, and move fast,” said Palmer.  

To address the pervasive public skepticism toward battery electric vehicles, his team focusses on human-centered design. It creates new solutions that are tailor-made to suit customers’ needs through gathering consumer research, identifying themes, generating ideas and prototypes, refining concepts, and reframing questions with new insights.  

On making these developments and new technologies more of a reality, Palmer emphasizes the need for not only applicability to customers, but profitability. 

“All-electric vehicles need to be profitable,” said Palmer. “If they’re not profitable, they’re not sustainable, and we don’t want to sell them. And if the whole company doesn’t want to sell them, they won’t put their passion behind it.” 

Palmer concluded by explaining the vision of the Mustang Mach-E and the delicate balance of ensuring Ford’s legacy and priorities are present in these vehicles of the near future. Amid evolving audiences and products, Palmer and his team concentrate on amplifying Ford’s strengths and its commitment to helping customers work productively, enjoy the thrill of performance, participate in adventures, and encourage human connection.