Ford (F), like other automakers, worries about the sharing economy and the reluctance of younger consumers to commit to big purchases like a car. “They’re becoming increasingly commitment-averse,” Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s futurist, tells me in the video above. “The future of the automobile will be tied to new models of ownership.”
That augurs an intensifying battle to get consumers’ attention and find new ways to profit from them without a direct sale. Ford has started by partnering with Zipcar, which promotes the affordability of renting cars only when you need them, compared with the cost of outright ownership. And Zipcar offers trendy models from the likes of Audi, BMW, Mazda and Volkswagen rather than the duds found in most rental fleets. Zipcar’s offerings include the Ford Focus and Escape SUV, giving Ford exposure among trendsetting urbanites who favor an occasional ride over owning.
But Ford must also find new ways to interest urbanites in car ownership, especially now that city living is popular again and many burgs are rapidly gaining population. Might it subsidize parking to alleviate a big part of the monthly cost of owning a car? Could Ford run its own vehicle-sharing fleets in big cities? Could automakers offer a form of time-sharing, with several people each owning a portion of a car?