Down the road, could Google buy Ford?
The tech titan may want an automaker as it pursues its plan for a driverless car.
Sometimes I engage in a silly exercise of who might buy whom, based strictly on market cap.
In playing the game early this week I noticed that Google (GOOG) is now worth more than $240 billion and Ford Motor (F) is worth just less than $52 billion. Google could buy Ford more than four times over.
The idea sounds ridiculous, until you realize how much work Google has been doing in the last few years on self-driving cars.
Car companies and tech companies are growing closer. Google has a deal with Hyundai to put its Google Maps into select vehicles, starting this year. All car companies have been increasing the amount of electronics in their vehicles -- it's a relatively cheap upgrade that can add significantly to the price and perceived value of a new vehicle.
Car companies are also getting more serious about autonomy, which is what they call the way station on the road to self-driving cars. At the Consumer Electronics Show this week, Toyota Motor's (TM) Lexus division announced an "active safety" concept car, equipped with lasers, cameras and radar that make a driver more like an airline pilot. Drivers are technically in charge, but more and more of the work is being done by the computer.
Smiling in the back seat with an iPad
KPMG has produced a white paper on driverless cars; it forecasts that the necessary regulatory, design and market changes required to put the vehicles on the road could be in place by 2025.
The KPMG paper (.pdf file) is filled with pictures of happy young executives in back seats smiling over iPads. But I think the market reality is different. Once these vehicles become available, I can easily see drunk drivers sentenced to using them, and older drivers being pushed into them by their worried offspring.
Even semi-autonomous cars -- like those Toyota is working on now -- might, once they come down in price, be scooped up by driving schools. Those deals might push new drivers toward them.
Avis Budget Group's (CAR) recent announcement that it would acquire Zipcar (ZIP) is another marker on this road. Why should a Zipcar sit at a train station waiting for its driver? Why couldn't it come to you? And if it's already coming to you, why couldn't you plug in your destination and just act as a back-up on the way there?
An urban revolution
Self-driving cars could be a revolution for our cities. It's easy to see the market model moving from purchase to short-term rental, and to see most cars spending their days on the road, not stuck in parking lots. Right now, parking represents one-third of the physical space in many of our cities.
Self-driving cars could also, in theory, take up less space on roads. No more of that confusion you always face at exits, with drivers darting across multiple lanes after suddenly realizing they did indeed want to get off there. No more speed demons darting in and out, either, and fewer slowpokes making the speed demons even more dangerous. Relative speeds are what create the most danger on our roads.
That, and drivers impaired by age, drink, drugs, cellphones, hamburgers, hot coffee, ADD (squirrel!) and kids fighting in the back seat.
But here's another market reality: I don't expect car companies like Toyota or Ford to simply give over control of their cars to some tech outfit. They will want to create their own technology regardless of the cost, and their influence on regulators could easily be used to keep tech-heavy rivals out of the market.
If the tech companies want in, they may have to buy their way in.
Now consider this: Ford had revenue of $136 billion last year. Google had revenue of $38 billion. When Google decided it needed to get into phone hardware to make headway in that market, it did not hesitate to buy Motorola Mobility, never mind the margin hit.
A combined "Foogle" would have had earnings of $4 billion on revenue of $46 billion last quarter, by my calculation.
So call me crazy. But just watch the technology evolve over the next few years. By this time in 2018, I may not sound so crazy.
At the time of publication the author had positions in Google and Ford.
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good article, could come to pass I suppose, highly unlikely though
All of you missed the point. Google isn't looking at buying Ford. Microsoft isn't buying Ford but they have sync in their vehicles. The writer was looking at what companies are worth, and what a large company could buy with its money.
Short sighted perspective, driving a vehicle with fancy electronics is much different than what Google has on the market today. Not to say anything is never possible but the recent turmoil that the Automobile companies went thru, especially Ford, it has become obvious that wandering off into unknown products and territory can be seriously detrimental to corporate health. Remember the CEO of Ford during the early late nineties and early 2000's whom said, " We are a Global Conglomerate Corporation who just happens to be a Car Company? He's now cooling his heels on an Australian Beach, and Ford's stock still has never returned to it's previous highs. Automotive consumers are a very picky breed, and it takes a business with full concentration on their end product to succeed as the Ex-Ceo of General Motors will testify. Remember when Hyundai first started out in the car business?....in the early eighties? They built a cheap attractive little car that would just fall apart at 50,000 miles! Hyundai was a corporate stalwart producing many, many products then. A product specific corporation that hones their skills and never takes their eyes off of the ball will succeed, not otherwise as proven by the likes of auto companies such as Studebaker, American Motors, etc.
I am tolerant of people that do not share my opinion and have another point of view. But I certainly do not agree with people who have another opinion and who are not tolerant of a different opinion. Just because I enjoy driving for my previous reasons stated does not mean that I am a control freak, define myself by my possession or am against change. I just thank a car that drive itself is useless and is inefficient. That is why we have Public Transportation as it moves more people for less expense creating less traffic and will save fuel. And for environmental freaks save the planet from global warming.
But again I say everyone is entitled to their opinion, which I feel that I deserve without being personally attacked. Please respectfully disagree..
,more lawsuits- this is the year owners win- black cessation-
whites own not a decent percent in any company and i am not paying a lot for this leak
i repeat google is owned by ras- viacom- viacom staff illegal and all sales or deals are off-
not one legal company on the nyse-
so what does that equate or compute in loss-
no more stock- attorney general on hot seat incompetence- state has documents and courts verifying name change of ownership and s-4 filings- show details of those who are involved in conspiracy and stocks and securities fraud
ok....what's wrong with this picture? If Ford had revenues that were about 2.5 times it's estimated value, but Google had revenues less than 1/6th of its estimated worth, then who is really the stronger company?
Personally, I think a lot of the so-called "tech" companies are vastly overrated. But hey, I've only worked in the thech industry for over 30 years.......what do I know?!?! hahahahahaaaaa!!!
The US auto-companies have already outsourced our jobs to such a ridiculous degree that Japanese car companies such as Toyota hier more Americans then US auto-companies do. So what would this be, a continuiation of the same trend, but this time out-sourcing the driver to one of Google's computers?
This wouldn't surprise me in the least, given the trend of outsourcing and all, in general :o :p
These software giants have Billions in cash and nothing to do with it....
IF THEY DO I WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER FORD WHICH IS THE ONLY CAR I WOULD BUY IF MY CURRENT FORD DIES!
BOYCOTT GMC AND CHRYSLER AND ANY OTHER BAILOUT COMPANY FROM OBAMA'S CORRUPT PAYOFFS! GE!!! BOYCOTT!
I GOT RID OF GOOGLE AND GMAIL! F THEM LIBERAL SPYING AHOLES!
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