Ford taps Apple exec to build high-margin digital services

By Nathan Gomes and Paul Lienert

(Reuters) -Ford Motor on Monday named former Apple executive Peter Stern as the president of its newly formed Ford Integrated Services unit to help build new high-margin digital and subscription services.

Stern, who previously oversaw Apple TV+, iCloud and Apple News+, will report to Ford CEO Jim Farley. In his new role, Stern will focus on integrating hardware, software and services across the company’s Ford Blue, Model e and Ford Pro units.

Like other automakers in the United States, Ford is looking to expand beyond its traditional wholesale-to-dealer business model and build recurring revenues from services connected to its vehicles, much as Apple has built on its hardware products.

Farley, in a media briefing on Monday, said a new digital vehicle architecture, due out in 2025 with the arrival of Ford’s next-generation electric vehicles, will enable the development of new services for both retail and commercial customers.

“We’re not going to limit it to EVs — we’re going to put it on the F-150,” Ford’s best-selling pickup truck, Farley said.

Ford now has more than 550,000 paid software and services subscribers, more than 80% of them through the Ford Pro commercial unit.

That business is generating “hundreds of millions of dollars” in revenue, Farley said, “with enormous margins” of 50% and more.

Stern said Ford plans to create “bundles of services” that will provide “safer, more convenient and more productive experiences.”

“The basis for differentiation is shifting from the vehicles alone to the integration of hardware, software and services,” Stern said.

When Stern joined Apple in 2016, the company’s services included iCloud and Apple Music.

“When I left, (Apple) had over a billion customers subscriptions,” he said.

(Reporting by Nathan Gomes in Bengaluru and Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Shweta Agarwal, Krishna Chandra Eluri and Sharon Singleton)