Aiming to gain ground in electric cars, Ford hires a former Apple and Tesla executive.
Ford Motor said on Tuesday that it had hired the senior executive who was leading Apple’s secretive car project to help the automaker push further into electric vehicles.
The executive, Doug Field, will be responsible for turning Ford vehicles into software-driven products that can interact with customers and provide new types of services, something Ford and other car companies say will become more important. Mr. Field’s title will be chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer, and he will report to Ford’s chief executive, Jim Farley.
At Apple, Mr. Field, 56, held the title of vice president of special projects and played an important role in a yearslong effort to develop an electric vehicle. His departure could be a blow to Apple’s auto ambitions, which have been a subject of intense speculation.
Before working at Apple, Mr. Field was vice president of engineering at Tesla, where he led the development of the company’s Model 3 car, its most affordable vehicle. Early in his career, Mr. Field worked for several years as an engineer at Ford.
The hiring is something of a coup for Ford, which like other traditional automakers has lost executives and engineers to start-ups and tech companies. In a sign of how important Ford considers Mr. Field’s return, the company held a conference call for journalists with Mr. Field and Mr. Farley on Tuesday.
“I think the auto industry is in a period of profound change,” Mr. Field said on the call. “Electrification, software and connected vehicles and autonomy are going to change everything. Too often these new technologies are brought forward by start-ups.”
At Ford, he added, he saw “a deep desire to really change and embrace these technologies.”
Mr. Farley said Ford planned to build a team of executives around Mr. Field. “We will compete for talent,” Mr. Farley said. “We aren’t done.”
Mr. Field, a graduate of Purdue University and M.I.T., worked at Ford from 1987 to 1993. He also spent nine years at Segway, the maker of the stand-up scooter, and five years in hardware engineering at Apple before joining Tesla in 2013. He left Tesla in 2018 as the company struggled to mass produce the Model 3, rejoining Apple.
Asked on the call if his most recent departure from Apple signaled the end of the tech company’s plans to develop a car, Mr. Field declined to comment.
Ford has already started selling electric vehicles. Its Mustang Mach-E sport utility vehicle has sold well, and the company has taken tens of thousands of reservations for an electric version of its F-150 pickup truck, which will go on sale next year. Ford expects that 40 percent of the vehicles it makes will be electric by 2030.
But Ford and other traditional automakers have not yet gone as far as Tesla in turning cars and trucks into software-based products that can be improved and modified with over-the-air updates the way smartphones can.
“What I’m so excited about is doing that with a company like Ford with this level of history and scale,” Mr. Field said, adding that Mr. Farley and Ford’s executive chairman, William C. Ford Jr., are “100 percent committed to figuring this out.”
The Biden administration said on Tuesday that it would provide $700 million in grants to meatpacking, farm and grocery-store workers to help defray some of the financial hardships the essential employees have faced during the pandemic.
The grants will be distributed to state agencies, tribal entities and nonprofit groups that typically support these workers, who were required to go in to work even amid the most deadly outbreaks of the coronavirus. The groups will be eligible to receive grants of up to $50 million, which they can distribute to workers, particularly “hard to reach” communities of immigrants who often work in the meatpacking plants and on commercial farms.
The Agriculture Department said the money could be used to help workers cover the cost of pandemic-related expenses such as personal protective equipment and dependent care and expenses associated with quarantines and testing for the virus. Eligible workers can receive up to $600. At least $20 million in grants will be set aside for grocery workers.
“We recognize that our farmworkers, meatpacking workers and grocery workers overcame unprecedented challenges and took on significant personal risk to ensure Americans could feed and sustain their families throughout the pandemic,” the secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, said in a statement.
El Salvador faced a rocky transition in its adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender on Tuesday. The government’s app for facilitating transactions — its “digital wallet” — went offline temporarily, protesters took to the streets of the capital to denounce the move, and the price of Bitcoin dropped sharply, demonstrating the volatility of the cryptocurrency market.
The country is the first to use Bitcoin as an official currency, encouraging businesses and citizens to use it in everyday transactions, and the authorities struggled to smooth out glitches in the new system.
President Nayib Bukele wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning that the digital wallet, which is called Chivo after a slang word for “cool,” would be available to Salvadorans in the United States and almost anywhere in the world. But even as large companies such as McDonald’s began accepting Bitcoin payments in El Salvador, for a time the wallet was not available to anyone, and the country slowed its rollout.
Mr. Bukele also announced on Twitter that servers were temporarily being taken offline as Chivo added capacity, and he acknowledged issues with downloads. “We prefer to correct it before reconnecting it,” he said.
When the law to adopt Bitcoin was passed in June, experts warned that it could bring instability and unnecessary risk to El Salvador’s fragile economy.
International financial regulators have also voiced legal concerns. Apart from the economic risks of Bitcoin’s volatility, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which is considering a financing deal with El Salvador, have said making Bitcoin an official currency could leave a country open to money laundering and other illicit financial activity. Bitcoin was initially designed to thwart total governmental control over money.
Many Salvadorans also appear wary of Bitcoin’s new status as an official currency alongside the U.S. dollar, which the country has relied on since 2001. On Tuesday, around 1,200 people protested in San Salvador, the capital, to oppose the adoption of cryptocurrency as well as judicial changes pushed through by Mr. Bukele’s party, the latest in a series of minor demonstrations that have erupted since the Bitcoin law was announced.
“No to Bitcoin, no to Bitcoin,” the crowd, which included judges and magistrates, chanted, holding signs with the Bitcoin logo crossed out.
“The dollar is a currency I can hold, but this — what kind of security is it going to give me?” asked Marina Pérez, a homemaker who was marching in the protest. “I’m against Bitcoin, and I’m against all the government’s measures.”
A majority of Salvadorans polled last month by La Prensa Gráfica, a newspaper, said they were against El Salvador’s adoption of Bitcoin, and nearly three-quarters said they would not accept the digital currency as payment. Only about a third of Salvadorans use the internet, and almost a quarter live below the poverty line.
“The truth is that here as the poor people that we are, we don’t understand that,” José Lopez, 81, a shoe shiner in San Salvador, said before the national Bitcoin adoption. “I’m worried.”
Cryptocurrency advocates — including El Salvador’s president — argue that adopting Bitcoin will foster financial inclusion. The majority of Salvadorans don’t have access to banking services, but most have cellphones that could, at least theoretically, allow them to join the blockchain’s alternate financial system. Mr. Bukele has said the move will also make receiving remittances from abroad faster and cheaper and will attract foreign investment.
Crypto fans abroad have cheered on El Salvador’s move, even as some worry that practical problems such as the technical glitches on Tuesday could slow adoption of Bitcoin elsewhere. Michael Saylor, the chief executive of the software intelligence firm MicroStrategy, which holds billions of dollars’ worth of Bitcoin, encouraged enthusiasts on Monday to buy $30 of the cryptocurrency “in solidarity” with Salvadorans, who have been promised that amount for downloading the national digital wallet.
To some Salvadorans, the enthusiasm feels reminiscent of the financial colonialism that the global crypto movement claims to undermine.
Spurred in part by Mr. Bukele’s announcement that El Salvador had bought 200 Bitcoins and quickly bought 200 more, the price of Bitcoin broke $52,000 on Monday before falling to around $45,000 on Tuesday. Mr. Bukele then announced that his government had bought an additional 150 Bitcoins, bringing the nation’s total to 550.
“Buying the dip,” the president said, using the lingo of crypto holders who pride themselves on being confident enough in their bets to buy falling assets. “We saved a million in printed paper.”
Brock Pierce, an American cryptocurrency entrepreneur who is chairman of the nonprofit Bitcoin Foundation, dismissed the technical challenges.
“No one had any expectation that this would be completely smooth,” Mr. Pierce said, given that there were only 90 days between the Bitcoin law’s adoption and Tuesday. He said he was speaking from a car in El Salvador that was “full of entrepreneurs” like him.
It’s rare to see a government act with the spirit of “an entrepreneurial start-up,” Mr. Pierce said, noting that the move by Mr. Bukele was drawing investment attention from businesspeople from around the world and could be good for Salvadorans without banking access. He called it a “historic” moment that would be remembered for many years to come.
Nelson Renteria contributed reporting.
In the nearly 18 months since the pandemic first forced companies to send their employees to work from home, the date companies have planned to bring workers back to offices has changed again and again. First it was January, a full year after the coronavirus first surfaced in China. January slipped to July, as tens of millions of people lined up across the country to be vaccinated.
But then the surge of vaccinations peaked, and the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus drove another surge in cases. For many companies, September became the new July.
Now September is out as an option, and it’s anybody’s guess when workers will return to their offices in large numbers, Kellen Browning, Lauren Hirsch and Coral Murphy-Marcos report for The New York Times.
Companies have new variables to consider, including:
Mask mandates that have been dropped and ordered back.
Evidence that the effectiveness of vaccines, while still strong, may be waning.
Burned-out workers who are vaccinated at varying rates.
There are also the differing infection rates across the country and a shifting power dynamic between employers and employees.
“I’ve been in H.R. for 30 years, and this is probably the hardest crisis I’ve had to deal with,” said Laura Faith, the senior director of people experience and operations at Uber. “This really is about life or death and health and safety.”
In addition to Uber, companies including Google, Amazon, Apple and Starbucks have said they will postpone their return dates to next year. Executives say their rationale for the long delay is twofold: In addition to wanting to keep employees out of harm’s way, they are seeking an end to the roller coaster of anticipated return dates and further delays. The fits and starts make it difficult for employees to plan, and the hope is that a far-off return date will not need to be adjusted yet again.
Intel’s chief executive, Patrick Gelsinger, acknowledged in an interview that the new wave of Covid-19 cases had “definitely stretched things out.”
“It’s challenging for all of us,” he said. “We get our hopes up, we’re ready to return to our quote-unquote normal lives, and then we take a few steps back.”
The rise of the Delta variant of the coronavirus has disrupted back-to-office plans for many companies, while others have already ordered employees to be at their desks.
CVS will require its pharmacists to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 30, while others who interact with patients, and all corporate staff, have until Oct. 31. The company announced to employees that most of its office sites would reopen on Tuesday.
Google said in July that it would require employees who returned to the company’s offices to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. It said on Aug. 31 that it would push back its return-to-office date to Jan. 10, from mid-October.
Starbucks is “encouraging” employees to be vaccinated. The company pushed its back-to-office date to January 2022, from October.
A California bill would require warehouse employers like Amazon to disclose productivity quotas for workers and would prohibit any quota that prevents workers from taking state-mandated breaks or using the bathroom when needed, or that keeps employers from complying with health and safety laws.
The legislation has drawn intense opposition from business groups, which argue that it would lead to an explosion of costly litigation and that it punishes a whole industry for the perceived excesses of a single employer.
“They’re going after one company, but at the same time they’re pulling everyone else in the supply chain under this umbrella,” said Rachel Michelin, the president of the California Retailers Association, on whose board Amazon sits.
California plays an outsize role in the e-commerce and distribution industry, both because of its huge economy and status as a tech hub and because it is home to the ports through which much of Amazon’s imported inventory arrives. The Inland Empire region, east of Los Angeles, has one of the highest concentrations of Amazon fulfillment centers in the country.
Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, declined to comment on the bill but said in a statement that “performance targets are determined based on actual employee performance over a period of time” and that they take into account the employee’s experience as well as health and safety considerations.