You visit your friendly Ford dealer, buy a Fiesta, and have little else to do with the company for the next X amount of years until you go and trade it in for a new model.
That’s pretty much how the average customer’s relationship works with Ford – and, indeed, any car brand. The only time that changes is if you buy a particularly problematic car and spend more time returning to your dealer than you’d really like.
But Ford wants to change that. It wants to be part of your everyday life – interacting with you on an almost daily basis. And not by selling you a duffer.
During its press conference at this week’s Detroit Auto Show, CEO Mark Fields revealed that Ford owns 6% of the $2.3 trillion annual global automarket market – but 0% of the $5.4 trillion transportation services market. That includes things like buses, taxis and ridesharing.
Fields said: “We’re kicking off the next transformation of Ford – advancing from being an auto company, to an auto and a mobility company.”
Cornering just a tiny sector of this market by branching out into things like parking and car sharing could work out to be massively profitable for Ford.
Fields added: “People keep talking about how the auto industry is going to be disrupted by the tech companies. And our approach is, we’re going to disrupt ourselves.
“We want to grow our core business, and love that business, designing, developing, manufacturing and marketing terrific cars, SUVs, truck and electrified vehicles. But we also see a huge opportunity in growing our business in the emerging mobility market.”
Ford’s executive chairman Bill Ford told journalists: “If you look at our heritage, my great grandfather changed the way the world moved with the Model T in very fundamental ways. So we have the same opportunity now, in a very different era, with very different challenges in front of us.
“The opportunities we have in front of us are very different than what my great grandfather faced, but the notion of providing mobility to people around the world, that’s not new to us. But what’s clear to us is that no one company can do this by themselves.”
So how does Ford suggest it’ll work? Say hello to FordPass – a service available to anyone, including people who aren’t Ford customers.
Users get access to FordGuides – ‘personal mobility assistants’ available 24 hours a day. Similar to Vauxhall’s OnStar service, you can phone the FordPass call centre and get assistance in finding parking, getting directions or avoiding congestion.
Download the app and get access to car shares, reserve parking spaces and receive rewards from partners – including parking companies such as Parkopedia and fast food chains including McDonalds.
If you do own a Ford with SYNC Connect (set to be launched in the new Edge, arriving in the UK later this year), you’ll also be able to use the app to locate, lock, unlock and even remotely start your car.
And, following in the footsteps of Hyundai with its Rockar stores and Tesla with its, er, Tesla stores, Ford aims to open a number of outlets in shopping centres – known as ‘FordHubs’. But unlike other manufacturers, their aim isn’t to sell cars – traditional dealers will stay for that.
Instead, they’ll be places anyone can call in, learn more about Ford as a company and its transportation options, and generally interact with the car manufacturer slash transportation service provider.
The service launches in April 2016, with FordHubs opening up in four major cities around the world – including New York, San Francisco, Shanghai and London.
Fields concluded: “From a customer standpoint, great experiences lead to long-term relationships. And from a business standpoint, it will drive greater loyalty, bring new consumers and accelerate Ford in becoming a serious player in mobility services.
“Today is the start of the next generation of Ford. Becoming an auto and a mobility company.”