Ford pre-empts the tech companies and 'disrupts itself' with FordPass mobility suite

Published: 12 January 2016

► Ford reveals 'FordPass' mobility and customer service system
► No longer 'an auto company' but a 'car and mobility company'
► FordPass aims to do to car usage what iTunes did to music

After 2015's Ford Mustang GT350R and GT supercar, really exciting new Ford metal is thin on the ground at the Detriot show. Maybe that's because Ford is no longer just a car company.

'People keep talking about how the auto industry is going to be disrupted by the tech companies,' says president and CEO Mark Fields. 'Our approach is straightforward - we're going to disrupt ourselves. We want to continue to grow and love our core business but we also see a huge opportunity to grow our business in the emerging mobility market.'

'We're on the cusp of a revolution,' explains Bill Ford. 'The powertrain is being disrupted, the way people access mobility is being disrupted and we have autonomous cars on the way. The opportunities are tremendous.'

What's this all about? Essentially promoting customer loyalty, making money and being future-proof. 'We have about 6% of the auto industry's $2.3 trillion revenue. We have nothing at all of the $5.4 trillion transportation and mobility business,' explains Fields.

Emblematic of this shift is FordPass, which Ford hopes will transform the customer experience as Apple did with the mobile phone.

'Traditionally we've invested a lot of our time and money in getting people into attaching new customers a year before they buy a car, and then we pretty much don't engage with them until the next transaction,' said Fields. 'FordPass re-imagines the customer experience with an integrated platform of four main parts; a Marketplace, Hubs, Guides and Appreciation.'

FordPass will be free to join, whether you're a Ford owner or not. Of primary appeal will be the Marketplace functionality, which allows access to mobility services like parking (via the likes of Parkopedia and Parkwhiz) and borrowing vehicles through FlightCar. In the future Ford hopes Marketplace will also facilitate ride-sharing and easy multi-mode transport, paid for with the integrated FordPay.

Also intriguing is Guides; a real person on the end of the phone to advise on your mobility problems, whether it's gridlock or a paucity of parking. Meanwhile, Apple Store-style FordHubs will let people 'share ideas' and learn more about Ford - 'These aren't places where we're just trying to sell something,' says Ford's global marketing executive Stephen Odell.

FordPass will launch in the spring, and the first four hubs will open in New York, London, San Francisco and Shanghai.

Read more of CAR's Detroit motor show coverage here.

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three

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