FORD GOES BEYOND MAKING CARS
Last month, car giant Ford sent letters to 14,000 of its American drivers with an unusual suggestion: For extra cash, they could rent their cars to fellow urbanites wanting a cheap ride.
Ford is now closer to the front of a movement in which cars are shared, ignored, or Uber-ed – not bought. The ‘'peer-to-peer'' rental experiment is only the latest and some call it a “weird move” for America's auto powerhouse, maker of the F-150 and Model T. In May, Ford launched a pay-as-you-go network of shareable, on-demand cars in London, called GoDrive.
In mid-June, the car giant introduced a new foldable, battery-powered ‘'e-bike,'' the MoDe:Flex, with companion smartphone and Apple Watch apps that alert cyclists to weather, directions, and even upcoming potholes.
Instead of depending on the business model that's kept them going all these years, rolling new cars and trucks off the lot, Ford is trying desperately to, in the words of chief executive Mark Fields, “challenge custom and question tradition.''
“It's really important for us to learn what our customers do, what they rent out and, as a result, what our next steps will be,'' said David McClelland, a vice president at Ford Motor Credit, the automaker's lending arm.
The car-sharing programme, running now through November, will cover cars, trucks, and SUVs in six cities in the US. The Ford-financed vehicles are rented to prescreened drivers through Getaround, an Airbnb for cars, for $5 (QR17) to $9 (QR30) an hour.
Getaround takes a 40% cut, but Ford gets a few perks, too: The car owners get more money to pay off loans, and the renters take a test drive that could persuade them to buy a Ford, if they ever buy a car.
But Ford isn't just betting all on car rentals or smart bikes. It has announced its team focused on self-driving vehicles was moving from research to ‘' advanced engineering.''