SAN FRANCISCO – Mobile apps have made commuting easier when it comes to parking and driving, even ride sharing and Ford wants a piece of it.
Ford is making a big push to get intimately involved with the daily mobility needs of all motorists, regardless of whether they own a Ford automobile.
In April, the automaker will launch a smartphone app called FordPass that helps users with parking and other services, provides live assistants via chat or voice, and offers reward-based programs with partner companies. Although FordPass can be used by anyone, it offers the most benefits to Ford vehicle owners.
Ford also will roll out four new FordHubs that, much like interactive kiosks at events such as the North American International Motor Show, which opened Monday in Detroit, are designed to showcase the company’s various Ford Smart Mobility initiatives. They won’t be points of sale.
“We don’t just want to be in the vehicle business, we want to be in the connected relationship business,” Ford CEO Mark Fields told USA TODAY. “Anyone can make an app. This is more than that. It’s about a platform that has a digital as well as physical presence in the lives of anyone who uses transportation.”
FordPass is a bold and logical step from Fields. Since taking the reins in 2014, he’s been maneuvering his company to source new revenue streams in a transportation future powered by Millennials who typically see more value in car sharing than ownership. Fields has been particularly aggressive in pushing forward into autonomous cars — fleets of which may form the next great urban transportation network — and driver-assist systems, both of which he discussed at last week’s auto-tech-filled 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Ford executives say that the 18-month project leveraged deep dives into a range of digital branding successes including Amazon’s Mayday button (which summons a live consultant to a Kindle Fire screen), Burberry’s in-store digital runaway experiences (bringing apparel to life for shoppers) and Nespresso’s customer-centric strategy (which includes a mix of retail outlets and phone consultants).
Once FordPass launches, users can book and pay for off-street parking in advance. Partner companies will include ParkWhiz and Parkopedia. Using the app, another partner, FlightCar, offers the opportunity to rent out your vehicle for pay while you’re away on a trip. FordPass will be available first in the U.S. and Canada, followed by specific European markets as well as China and Brazil.