Qatar Today - - AUTO NEWS -

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.''

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