How do car companies know what the world will want in five, 20, even 50 years’ time? If they’re Ford, they ask Sheryl Connelly, the Blue Oval’s head of trends and futuring. It’s Connelly’s job to figure out how the automotive landscape will change before it’s even thought about changing, to predict what the next big shift will be in the world of cars.
A Michigan native who’s been at Ford for nearly 20 years, Connelly was last year named one of the most influential creatives in the world. So can she actually see into the future? And which horse should we back in next year’s Grand National? Top Gear caught up for a chat…
TG: So what does a futurist do?
SC: A futurist does not predict the future. It takes at least three years to bring a vehicle to market, so even if we were to come up with an ingenious idea today, it would still take about 36 months for the rubber to hit the road. So, every day within Ford, we have the task of trying to understand what the world’s going to look like three years out. Henry Ford said, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse’.” If you ask people what you could do to make their life easier three years from now, most people couldn’t answer that question for three weeks, three days from now.