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With FordPass, Ford seeks to create the ‘iTunes’ of mobility services

Ford says it wants to transition from a car company into what it calls an “auto and mobility company,” which means selling customers services as well as vehicles. At the 2016 Detroit Auto Show, Ford unveiled one such service, claiming it will “do for car owners what iTunes did for music fans.”

Called FordPass, it will operate more or less like a concierge service for members, who don’t necessarily have to be Ford owners. Members can talk to “FordGuides” 24 hours a day to do things like book parking in advance, and there will be a “Marketplace” of related services, including ride sharing, car sharing, and multimodal transportation planning.

The goal is to make coordinating the logistics of a car journey easier. FordGuides will walk customers through reserving and paying in advance for parking at a destination they may not be familiar with. Ford is also working with ParkWhiz and Parkopedia to streamline the parking process, and with FlightCar to allow members to borrow or share cars when traveling. The carmaker is also developing a “FordPay” virtual wallet that can be used with all of these services.

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All of this infrastructure also gives Ford greater opportunities to promote itself. Owners will also be able to use FordPass to schedule maintenance at their local dealer, and the service will operate in conjunction with Sync Connect, which allows owners to check a vehicle’s status remotely. Ford says it’s also setting up “FordHubs” in New York, San Francisco, London, and Shanghai to show off FordPass and other new tech.

Members can additionally accrue reward points for doing everything from signing up for FordPass, to booking parking, and on to calling a FordGuide. Ford says that it is collaborating with companies like McDonald’s and 7-Eleven to “recognize members with access to merchandise and unique experiences.” Who doesn’t love free stuff?

FordPass goes live in April, and it probably won’t be the only service of its kind. Between car-sharing services, experiments with shared ownership, and existing concierge services, car makers are eager to interact with their customers in ways beyond just selling them vehicles. It’s both a way to extract more revenue from consumers, and to protect against erosion of car maker’s sales brought on by alternatives to ownership. Either way, expect Ford and other car companies to continue dabbling.