Ford CEO joins IBM board as auto industry transforms

(Reuters) - Ford Motor Co Chief Executive Mark Fields is joining IBM’s board of directors as the No. 2 U.S. automaker explores alternative mobility options beyond selling cars and trucks.

Mark Fields, President and CEO of Ford, speaks with journalists at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM said on Tuesday that Fields, 55, was elected to join the board starting March 1.

“Mark led the highly successful transformation of his company in a competitive industry where technology has driven innovation. He is leading Ford into a future where cars are not only vehicles, but increasingly becoming mobile technology platforms,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer.

Under Fields, Ford has looked at alternatives to traditional car ownership, including mergers and acquisitions and partnerships.

Ford and other automakers are increasingly focused on self-driving cars and the potential disruptive influence autonomous cars may have on future car ownership. They face potential threats from new competitors from Silicon Valley. Ford is exploring alternatives like car-sharing and other options to meet future transportation needs.

Ford spokesman Mike Moran said “IBM is a global company with a rich history of innovation and disrupting its business model to deliver results – which is very complementary to what we are doing at Ford. Mark will bring unique insights to IBM, and his experience and new relationships serving on the IBM board will bring equal benefits back to Ford.”

Fields briefly worked at IBM in sales and marketing after graduating from Rutgers and before attending Harvard Business School.

Fields told Reuters earlier this month the automaker is exploring various options to boost its move into car-sharing, self-driving technology and services built on staying connected with customers during the 900 or so hours a year they are behind the wheel.

The company has repeatedly declined to comment on reports that Ford is pursuing an alliance with Internet leader Alphabet Inc’s Google to collaborate on development of self-driving cars. Reuters reported in December that the companies have held talks and Fields met with Google co-founder Sergey Brin that same month to discuss the status of the talks.

Ford is pursuing its own efforts to develop autonomous driving technology, and said earlier this month it would triple the size of its self-driving car test fleet to 30 vehicles.

Ford’s previous CEO, Alan Mulally has been a director at Google since 2014.

IBM also said two longtime board members, Alain J.P. Belda and William R. Brody, are retiring.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown