automotive-gear-raj-singhThis coming June, we’re producing our annual Detroit CIO Executive Leadership Summit an amazing city that is experiencing an economic renaissance thanks largely to the powerful resurgence of the automotive industry.

One of our featured speakers will be Raj Singh, EVP and CIO at FordDirect. I had an absolutely fascinating conversation with Raj and I was impressed by his ability to blend excellent business and digital technology skills to create real value for one of the world’s leading brands.

FordDirect provides digital marketing and advertising solutions to Ford and Lincoln dealers, giving them a uniquely valuable platform for driving more sales. For example, FordDirect provides an array of dealer services such as marketing solutions, websites, leads and e-tools that dealers can use to improve sales, service and customer satisfaction.

With a foundation built by Ford Motor Company and its franchise dealers, and being the only joint venture of its kind, FordDirect genuinely understands the automotive and dealer business.

“Five or six years ago, the conversation would have been about finding an IT solution for the supply chain. Today, the conversation is about the customer experience,” says Raj. “We’re working on making each customer’s experience faster, better and smoother so they can make their purchase decisions more quickly.

Today, customers complete more of the car buying transaction online.  You want to trade a car, you want a replace a car, you want to lease a car, you want to finance a car – whatever you want to do, you can complete all of it online, in just a few minutes. That’s amazing.”

Raj is definitely a high-energy type of leader, and that’s exactly what the auto industry needs at this critical moment in its history. I’m betting that Detroit’s rebound will continue. According to my sources in the community, Detroit has become of a magnet for some of the best and brightest developers and designers in the world. As most of you know, the top auto makers have already launched their own software startups to compete with Silicon Valley.

Imagine Detroit competing with the Bay Area for top tech talent. That certainly would be an interesting battle.