Ford Is Preparing for the Post-Car Ownership Era With Its New Mobile Service

Will launch a free app, FordPass, in April

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Many millennials are eschewing car ownership, and Ford is offering a solution. Seeking to be both an auto and mobility company, Ford will launch a new mobile service in April to aid in transportation needs, regardless of whether you own one of its vehicles.

According to Ford's research, millennials are twice as likely as other age groups to opt for other methods of car access, such as car sharing or leasing. FordPass, a free smartphone app, helps users locate and pay for parking, pay for services via a mobile wallet called FordPay, get directions and vehicle assistance, and access exclusive merchandise and experiences like curbside pickup service at McDonald's and 7-Eleven. Ford plans to expand the service to offer car sharing and on-demand shuttles in the future. The effort includes FordHubs, storefronts in New York, San Francisco, London and Shanghai that will offer directions, city guides and information on Ford technologies.

To develop the platform, Ford studied best-in-class consumer experience brands for the past year and a half. The company took cues from TripAdvisor's independent survey reviews; Amazon's Mayday button, which offers instant tech support; Burberry's digital runways; and Nespresso's customer loyalty efforts, according to Elena Ford, vice president of global dealer and customer experience at Ford and the great-great-granddaughter of Henry Ford. "We figured out how their offerings could fit in with how our customers go through the retail experience," she said.

FordPass was developed with the next generation of drivers (Gen Z), who are currently 13 to 21 years old, in mind, said Sheryl Connelly, manager of global trends and futuring at Ford. "They're fiercely independent and extremely impatient, and all of the things FordPass offers are about saving time: the shortcuts that will help you get from point A to point B."

Adds Ford, "Cars and trucks are still our core business, but now we're focusing on building emerging transportation services. We want to be part of the sharing economy and the owning economy."

@ChristineBirkne Christine Birkner is a Chicago-based freelance writer who covers marketing and advertising.