With a string of announcements over the past couple of years, Ford has been gradually transforming from a traditional automaker into a more modernized mobility company, hoping to avoid getting caught off-guard by the disruption that has been sweeping the industry. On Monday, it took another turn in that pivot with the announcement of FordPass, a sort of transportation concierge program that will be offered to both customers and the general public.
FordPass members will be able to book parking spots in cities and airports, schedule Ford vehicle maintenance, speak directly with guides, and find out more about Ford products and services. The system can book a parking space directly with ParkWhiz and Parkopedia and access airport parking through FlightCar. We’re imagining that things like free fries from McDonald’s or a coupon for a Big Gulp from 7-Eleven — two of the program partners — could be offered as part of its membership reward program. Members can also drop in on a "FordHub" in urban areas to meet with guides, where no cars will be sold. In fact, soon Ford might be able to provide commuters with access to an e-bike.
Free fries and a Big Gulp
I spoke with Elena Ford, the company's VP of Global Dealer and Consumer Experience, who is also the great-great granddaughter of Henry Ford. She has helped shape the program format, which started to take shape in meetings last spring. "I see it as a partnership with the dealers," she says. "The dealers are the face of Ford to the customer. We’re connecting virtually. Customers already research their vehicles online."
Ford's mission to reinvent itself has accelerated in recent months, embarking on an aggressive campaign to emphasize its interest in ride sharing and electrification. As the research began last spring, Ford says she was struck by the scope of the $7 billion parking industry.
FordPass and its personal guides are not the company’s first foray into hotel-like concierge services. In 2013, Lincoln rolled out a concierge program for its customers. Other automakers have rolled out similar programs, indicating a shift in how they will approach selling cars in the future.
The service launches in April, and the first FordHub will be at the Westfield World Trade Center mall in New York City. Future locations will pop up in Shanghai, San Francisco, and London. "These four hubs are pilots. We really want to grow in urban locations," Ford says. "It’s about taking the consumer experience to a whole new level."