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Ford revs up connected car platform with mobile payments, leasing

Ford Motor Company is rolling out a slew of new connected car features, including enabling Ford car owners and non-owners to remotely start their vehicles and pay for parking via an application, as well as piloting a new mobile-driven leasing program.

Ford is attempting to reimagine its customer experience by jumpstarting the FordPass platform with several new tools designed to make driving and commuting even easier and more enjoyable. Additionally, the car manufacturer is foraying into mobile-enabled leasing and is setting up an automotive wearables experience lab, underscoring its commitment to staying ahead of the curve when it comes to car connectivity.

?The world is changing and we need to make sure we create a great experience for customers,? said Angie Kozleski, global marketing and digital communications manager at Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, MI. ?FordPass is that platform that will allow you to remain connected to the company.?

Spotlighting consumer relationships
FordPass, one of the manufacturer?s bigger initiatives, will be available to Ford owners and non-owners this spring. Whereas Ford Sync Connect's technology also allows drivers to virtually unlock their cars via a mobile app, FordPass's ubiquitous nature will act as one of the main differentiating factors.

The complimentary platform was developed to strengthen relationships between customers and automakers by placing mobile at its forefront.

FordPass will enable users to remotely start their cars via a mobile app, as well as use FordPay to find and pay for parking in nearby lots. The latter could be a major selling point for the platform, as consumers will no longer need to carry spare change or credit cards when planning to park at a lot.

Additionally, consumers will be able to immediately pay their Ford Credit bills, leverage the FordPass app to receive roadside assistance in case of a flat tire, redeem perks at affinity partners and converse with a FordGuide regarding the brand?s latest technology efforts.

Ford is also implementing Apple?s Siri Eyes-Free capability into the more than five million vehicles equipped with the automaker's Sync connected software, enabling customers to easily access a slew of iPhone features while driving (see story).

As more automakers veer further into the sector of connected cars, Ford is attempting to establish itself as a mobile leader by appealing to owners of its models and non-owners alike.

?FordPass is a platform that will help to transform our customer experience,? Ms. Kozleski said. ?All of the features are designed to add more convenience. 

?Whether it is helping with mobility solutions or accessing your vehicle, it is designed to make people's lives better.?

Jumpstarting leasing programs
Meanwhile, Ford Motor Credit Company is introducing a pilot leasing program, set to be available via mobile devices. Families and groups of friends ranging from three to six people are now able to share a Ford car in lieu of purchasing a new vehicle or renting one long-term.

Group leases will be valid for 24 months, and will enable drivers to keep up with maintenance needs, view their accounts, submit payments, communicate with each other and check car status all within a plug-in device and app.

The leasing pilot is part of the Ford Smart Mobility plan, which aims to bring the car manufacturing firm to another level in terms of connectivity, autonomous vehicles and the customer experience.

Wearable innovations consist of another branch of Ford Smart Mobility. Ford has rolled out a new lab, called the Automotive Wearables Experience lab, at its Dearborn Research and Innovation Center as it focuses its newest efforts on embracing smartwatches and developing new apps.

Researchers are studying potential ways of linking important health information to in-vehicle platforms, such as lane-keeping assist tools that become more sensitive if a wearable indicates its owner did not receive enough sleep during the night.

Semi-autonomous driving apps, as well as voice control features, are also in development.

While the company works on perfecting the tools of the future, customers will be able to experience FordPass?s new features this spring, setting the stage for an innovative 2016 in the automotive industry.

?FordPass will give both owners and non-owners a variety of experiences,? Ms. Kozleski said. ?For example, all members can experience mobility solutions such as advance parking. 

?If you are an owner and have a vehicle with SYNC Connect, you will be able to operate it through FordPass.?