Two new programs from the Blue Oval aim to reinvent how we get around, using a new mobility app and a lease-sharing pilot.
100+ years after Henry Ford transformed transportation with the first iteration of the moving assembly line for mass-production of automobiles, Ford Motor Company continues to disrupt the mobility sector with its innovations, which are going beyond just launching new cars and trucks.
Last summer, we brought you the news about the latest phase of the company's Smart Mobility plan, which included pilot programs for both car-sharing and peer-to-peer car rentals, and more recently, the announcement of a major commitment to electrification of its vehicles. At this year's North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Ford announced its next mobility initiatives, which aim to reinvent the driver's experience with a new app, FordPass, and a new lease financing option, the Ford Credit Link program.
The programs were announced by Ford CEO Mark Fields with the interesting statement that “People keep talking about how auto companies will be disrupted by tech companies. We want to disrupt ourselves.” That's a big promise, but is right inline with the company's assertion that Ford is not just a car company, but is instead both an auto maker and a mobility company. After all, getting around isn't, and shouldn't be, just a matter of driving our own vehicle, for a couple of big reasons.
First, owning or leasing a car isn't always right for everyone, or the be-all-end-all solution, whether it's a matter of impracticality or a matter of finances, so when we talk about mobility and transportation, it's important to include other aspects of transit, such as ride- and car-sharing and multi-modal solutions (for example, using a car plus a bike for the "last mile" challenge).
Secondly, most of us use our cars just a small percentage of the time, yet have to shoulder the total cost of ownership 24/7/365, which means that we're paying way too much for our ability to get from one place to another.
And third, owning and driving a car goes way beyond just getting behind the wheel and heading out, but instead includes a variety of other challenges, such as finding and paying for parking, and determining what the best "mobility solution" is for a given situation (such as integrating transit options or finding a car- or ride-sharing option).
The FordPass program, which will fully launch in April 2016, will attempt to cover a few of those issues, and is expected to "do for car owners what iTunes did for music fans," to use the company's own words. This free program (for both Ford owners and non-owners alike) is centered around a mobile app (of course) that aims to help people "rethink" the way they move, using a four-pronged approach.
The FordPass Marketplace will feature options for finding and/or reserving parking spots (and paying for them with a virtual wallet), finding vehicles to borrow/share while traveling, and getting loyalty perks from other businesses. A concierge-type service will also enable live chat with "trusted and knowledgeable" FordGuides, who will "guide, serve and help solve mobility challenges," but not try to sell you a vehicle.
The FordPass program will also include a brick-and-mortar component, FordHubs, which are urban storefronts that promise to help people "understand mobility options" in their cities, as well as explore mobility solutions for their needs, but won't act as car dealers and attempt to sell a vehicle to visitors. The first of these FordHubs will be opened later this year at Westfield World Trade Center in New York, followed by locations in San Francisco, London and Shanghai.
“These aren’t places where we’re trying to sell something. We want to hear people’s thoughts, and we want to show them what we’re doing to solve the transportation issues of today and tomorrow – and not just in their city, but around the world." - Stephen Odell, Ford executive VP of Global Marketing, Sales and Service
Also announced at NAIAS was the upcoming launch (next month) of a pilot lease financing option, called Ford Credit Link, which will allow three to six friends or family members to co-lease a vehicle, and to manage and reserve their "drive time" as well as make payments and schedule regular vehicle maintenance, using a combination of a plug-in device for the car and an app. The program will initially be rolled out at three Ford dealers in Austin, Texas, and is targeted at drivers who don't need a full-time vehicle, but still want access to a car of their own.
"People already are sharing everything – from books to homes. We’re seeing the potential for a shift from a single consumer paying for a single vehicle to several people sharing costs and benefits. Ford Credit Link makes Ford vehicles more readily available to people who may not want or need their own vehicle but have mobility requirements that must be met." - David McClelland, Ford Credit executive VP of Marketing and Sales
In addition to the group lease program, Ford also announced a new option for those leasing a Lincoln, and although it is not exactly a 'green' program, it will offer a more precise method of getting the most value from a vehicle lease. The Lincoln Miles program will allow select clients to earn credits for unused miles on their lease vehicle (up to $1000), which can then be applied to future leases or purchases of Lincoln vehicles. The pilot program, which is for drivers of the Lincoln MKC, MKX or MKZ "with an embedded modem" will enable lease-holders to monitor their mileage daily and to predict their lease-end mileage for a more accurate accounting of the vehicle's actual usage.