Ford Says It Wants to Change the Way the World Moves

Ford Mustang
Source: Ford Motor Co.
Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) has a big plan to transform itself from an automaker to a “mobility” provider. The company announced on Tuesday that it has begun a “Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing” program and a “multimodal mobility” solution. The announcement was made in Palo Alto, heart of the Silicon Valley, and not Detroit. The symbolism is unmistakable.

Under the peer-to-peer car sharing plan, the company’s credit division is inviting 14,000 U.S. customers in six cities and 12,000 customers in London, to register to rent their Ford-financed vehicles to prescreened drivers for short-term use. Ford’s customers will use a Web-based, mobility app from ride-share company Getaround, while London’s drivers connect through a similar rental system from easyCar Club. The company said that its customers were looking for ways to share the costs of vehicle ownership.

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Under the multimodal mobility banner, Ford launched a third iteration of what it calls an eBike, this one named the MoDe:Flex, which can be folded and stored inside any Ford vehicle where the battery can be charged while the bike is stowed. The company has also created a prototype smartphone app, MoDe:Link, that provides users with real-time information about the weather, congestion and parking costs, among a host of other capabilities. Ford also said it has created an extension of the app for smartwatches.

The similarities between Ford’s car-sharing plan and both ride-sharing programs like Uber and Lyft and rental programs like Zipcar are apparent, but Ford is moving the bar a little higher by allowing vehicle owners to share their cars, not just offer rides. The company has been operating a one-way service it calls GoDrive in London since late last month.

Ford’s goal, according to executive chairman Bill Ford, is “to make people’s lives better by helping them more easily navigate through their day, address societal issues and, over time, change the way the world moves… .”

On a more mundane level, the company also wants to address a shift in thinking by younger consumers. Ford cites independent research that shows a third of millennials are interested in renting out their own stuff as a way to supplement income; the group ranks car rides second only to book lending as something they are most open to sharing; more than half are open to sharing rides with others; and while half of millennials and Generation Z consumers say that saving money is the best reason to share goods and services, 40% say it is a good opportunity to try out new products.

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