Ford today announced the official launch of its Ford2Go car-sharing service in Germany, in partnership with the company behind the manufacturer-independent Flinkster car share network. Ford2Go is the first carmaker-backed car sharing program, and it will be available nationwide in Germany, bringing dealerships into the mix. Ford clearly views the car sharing phenomenon as a pre-sales opportunity, and wants to more fully explore that opportunity without the use of intermediary brands.
Ford2Go works by allowing customers to obtain cars and service from their local dealers, meaning there’s already a sales conversion opportunity just from getting bodies in the door. Ford launched the program in response to a survey it conducted which found very high interest in cars-sharing services among European residents. 56 percent of respondents in a survey of over 6,000 people said they’d be interested in a car-sharing service, according to Ford. The company has also previously had success with other existing car-sharing service, including the now Avis-owned Zipcar.
In August 2011, Ford announced a two-year agreement with Zipcar to become the company’s largest supplier of fleet vehicles for the college market. The intent behind the program was to make sure that the college student demographic had a healthy taste of Ford’s upcoming lineup. The market is an especially attractive one since logically, at least some these car-sharers will later become car owners as their careers and budgets allow.
Zipcar CEO Scott Griffith explained during a keynote address at last year’s CTIA MobileCON that automakers like car sharing services because they see them sort of as extended test drives, and the Ford2Go program is a logical extension of that view. But given the motivation behind the program, it’ll be interesting to see if Ford’s own-branded offering can truly compete with other offerings from companies like Car2Go which are designed much more clearly around serving customers without the secondary sales motivation. Still, startups in this space should watch the effort closely, in case other manufacturers decide to follow suit, which could quickly crowd the space.
Ford has a dedicated app-based car location and booking system created by German company DB Rent, and plans to roll out the Ford2Go network over the course of this year. We’ll likely see it extend to other European countries first after that, should it prove successful.