Ford jumps into car-share business

Ford enters auto-sharing biz
Ford enters auto-sharing biz   

In a sign automakers are increasingly aware they'll have to try new approaches to reach customers, Ford is launching a car-share program.

The pilot program will be in six U.S. cities and in London. Customers who finance their vehicle through Ford Motor Credit will be able to rent out their car, SUV or truck.

"We are seeing a lot of folks that don't want to own a vehicle, and we as a company want to make sure we are listening to customers and see if we can help in that regard," CEO Mark Fields said. "Customers, particularly in urban areas want access versus ownership."

The program is being run by Getaround, a San Francisco-based start-up that will oversee the car-share app customers will use to rent vehicles.

Initially, the program will include 14,000 Ford Motor Credit customers in the U.S. and 12,000 in Britain. The U.K. car share program will be run by the easyCar Club.

"My great-grandfather helped put the world on wheels so everyone could enjoy the benefits of mobility," said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford. "Our vision today is to expand that same thinking using advanced technology and new business models."

Ford tests a car sharing program
Ford tests a car sharing program   

Ford's move into car sharing comes at a time when many in the auto industry are trying to find new ways to deal with the growing problems of congestion and mobility-on-demand services like Uber and Lyft.

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Those programs, along with successful car-share firms like Zipcar have some people who live in cities rethinking whether they need to buy a car. For many the answer is no.

Instead, they are turning to car-share programs. A new study by AlixPartners finds 4.9 million people now have car-share memberships worldwide. By 2020, that number is expected to skyrocket to 26 million.

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So why does Ford think offering peer-to-peer car rentals will be good for business? First, it's another way to expose potential customers to Ford vehicles.

Second, Ford buyers are increasingly looking for a way to cut their monthly vehicle costs, and renting out their car or truck while they are not using it is one way to do that.

Fields says the program is all about Ford taking a different approach to business.

"We are driving the company these days to challenge custom and question tradition and use technology to make customers' experiences better," he said.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com.