Ford CEO: Electrification will play important role in our future

Ford is moving full speed ahead to an electrified future, CEO Mark Fields said Thursday.

Speaking with CNBC's "Closing Bell," Fields said he expects consumers to continue to focus on vehicles' fuel economy — even with relatively low gas prices. And those market trends, combined with regulatory requirements, mean that electrification is here to stay.

"Overall, electrification is going to play an important role in our future," he said. "It's not going away, at all, and we're actually embracing it because, from a customer standpoint, we think that's the thing they're going to want."

Mark Fields, CEO of Ford Motor Co.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Mark Fields, CEO of Ford Motor Co.

Ford plans to have 13 new electrified models by 2020, and is investing $4.5 billion in electric vehicle solutions.

On the future of his company's overall sales, Fields said he isn't worried about a Federal Reserve rate hike damaging consumers' appetite for new vehicles.

While some, including the Fed itself, have suggested the expected course of target rate increases will negatively impact the auto industry, Fields said he's looking at what central bank tightening will mean for the country as a whole.

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"When you think about all this talk about a higher interest rate, first off let's take a deep breath. That means the economy is doing well, that means that the labor market is doing well, they're having wage and income growth, and that's good for the car business," he said. "As long as the rate increases are gradual, which we expect, we think it's going to continue to support very healthy sales in the auto industry."

Ford's head of research said earlier Thursday that the company hopes to develop ride hailing services that could compete with existing providers such as Uber or Lyft.

"Our vision is to be a mobility service provider, beyond building a vehicle that would be in somebody else's fleet," said Ken Washington, Ford's vice president of research. "We see this as a business we want to be in."

Washington spoke at a media event at which Ford unveiled a pilot program that will allow employees working at the company's Dearborn, Michigan, operations to use smartphone apps to hail rides from one building to another in specially designed Ford Transit vans.

—Reuters contributed to this report.