At the North American International Auto Show, Ford unveiled an interesting new program to the world – FordPass. According to The Detroit News, Ford’s goal with this app is to create a centralized hub which allows Ford owners to utilize some unique services related to ride-sharing and mobility. Some of the planned features include FordGuides, which allow Ford owners to ask questions and get answers via text or phone 24 hours per day; and FordHubs, which are actual buildings Ford owners can visit to learn more about Ford technology. Additionally, Ford owners will be able to utilize the app to obtain free parking at airports. These parking lots then rent out the owner’s vehicle while they are away. Ford owners will be able to use the app to locate and reserve parking spaces as well. According to Ford, it is seeking to expand the app to include ride and car sharing as well. The app also introduces a new loyalty program which will reward app users with points that they can redeem for prizes.
While I can certainly see the value of utilizing some of these services should an owner live in a dense market with limited parking like New York or Los Angeles, it would seem as if the initiative seeks to keep Ford owners “in-house,” so to speak. Most of these services already exist. And the offerings are via partnerships with existing companies. Consumers could easily download free apps from the companies whose services they desire already -- without a Ford branded app. It’s also not clear whether a consumer would be willing to allow a parking garage to rent out their vehicle in exchange for free parking at an airport. Trading a small daily parking charge in a long-term parking lot, for some stranger driving around in your vehicle, seems perhaps a bit of a stretch. So, what’s motivating Ford to provide this app. And, how will they get consumers to use it? The integrated loyalty program is the key.
Ford is piggybacking, if you will, on the more popular services that are rising in the peer-to-peer economy. I would not be surprised to see Ford launch an Uber-like service in the future. Wait. It just did. Ford also announced its Dynamic Shuttle Service, which is an Uber-type service currently used exclusively by employees. This service, in partnership with IBM, is also being used to test their Smart Mobility Experimentation Platform, which “will aggregate data every 10 to 15 seconds to provide drivers with information like the route with the least amount of traffic and areas with open parking spots.”
Only time will tell if Ford is making the right move. It would seem that trends such as ride and car sharing, along with the explosion of Uber (worth $60 billion after only 5 years) may indicate that it is. However, remember that while these services may be popular for consumers that live in densely populated markets, it’s hard to fathom rural owners taking advantage of or needing most of these. While the loyalty program may attract Ford owners to access these services through their centralized app, we’ll just have to wait and see how owners actually respond once it is launched in the Spring.