It’s a big job for companies today to stay in front of the changes that are sweeping the business world. As someone who lives in Rochester, New York, I have seen firsthand how a company like Eastman Kodak has gone from a dominant global enterprise to a poster-child for precipitous technological near-extinction. All the massive quantities of film, paper, chemicals and processing that were once the hallmarks and the lifestream of the photographic world have now been replaced by much smaller quantities of memory chips and screens.
Another area where this could happen is in transportation. Surveys indicate that young people today, especially those in cities, are far less interested in owning a car than their predecessors were. This could have a major impact on the gigantic automobile industry that last year alone sold over 70 million cars. It seems likely the “personal mobility” pie is going to get smaller, courtesy of things like the sharing economy. Today’s manufacturers are trying to read the tea leaves and see how they can transition to address the evolving needs of consumers.
That is why Ford’s finance arm, Ford Credit, just announced a six-month experiment that will help them get involved with and learn about how the sharing economy is reshaping the transportation world into one of smart mobility.
I spoke with David McClellan, VP of global marketing for Ford Credit, about the project. He told me that letters were sent out at the end of May to 14,000 Ford Credit customers in six US cities: Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. The customers were invited to sign up with the car-sharing provider Getaround.
Ford has no financial interest in this project at this time, McClellan told 3p. When asked what’s in it for Ford, he said: “We’re interested in understanding our customers’ needs, and we see this mobility space in the sharing economy is something worth trying. So, what’s in it for Ford Credit is to learn. What’s in it for the owner is to earn some extra income, and what’s in it for the renter is to experience Ford vehicles.
"The kind of person who is going to rent this out probably doesn’t own a vehicle today and needs to get from point A to point B. Perhaps, as their needs change, and they’ve had a great experience, they will look favorably upon Ford in the future.”
Once the car is registered on the Getaround site, the owners can decide when the car is available to be rented (up to a full day) and how much they will charge. Renters will make use of an app on their smartphones to locate the vehicle and rent it.
Some of the things they'll look at are: how many people register, what types of vehicles are being rented and who rents them. “The initial response has been very positive,” McClellan said.
He would not speculate on what will happen once the pilot is completed, though he did say, “It’s a really neat concept, and we’re really excited to learn what happens.”
Ford CEO Mark Fields also announced a similar program in the U.K. with London’s easyCar Club.
Ford is not the first to dip a toe into this pond. General Motors has a partnership with San Francisco-based Turo, another peer-to-peer sharing service similar to Getaround. In Europe, several carmakers have taken a stake in firms like car2go (Daimler), DriveNow (BMW), Quicar and Greenwheels (Volkswagen).
RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, Grist, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, Design News, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, Environmental Science, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Eniday, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 53 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP was the winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging competition. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org