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Car and Driver: Ford Smart Mobility, LLC: New Ford Subsidiary Looks to the Future—With or Without the Car

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Ford Smart Mobility

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As the automotive industry begins to grapple with the idea that in a future filled with self-driving cars, the traditional car sales model might break down—and possibly threaten auto companies’ existence—Ford is attempting to stay ahead of the changes. Now, instead of launching another car-sharing program or announcing a groundbreaking six-way lease program in anticipation of shifting consumer notions of car ownership, Ford is starting a new division, Ford Smart Mobility, LLC that’s split between Palo Alto, California, and Ford HQ in Dearborn, Michigan and will seek business opportunities that capitalize on the future of mobility.
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The idea behind Ford Smart Mobility is to leave the Ford Motor Company to do what it does best: build and sell traditional cars and trucks. As for Ford Smart Mobility, it will work toward inserting itself into the “transportation services market,” a slice of pie that Ford says “already accounts for $5.4 trillion in annual revenue.” Who can say no to a piece of any revenue stream cut from a number ending in “trillion?”

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Ford wants its new division to act like a startup company, albeit one with access to the automaker’s product development, research and development, marketing, and data analytics people. The goal is to “develop commercially ready mobility services and invest in promising mobility-related ventures.” It isn’t presently clear what forms these ventures could take, from small electric city cars, more infrastructural projects, expanded car-sharing programs, or even something like a clean-energy bus system. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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So far the company seems like it’s off to a good start, as Ford enlisted one of its board members, Jim Hackett, to be the Smart Mobility chairman. Fans of the University of Michigan’s sports program will recognize Hackett’s name—in his 15 months as the school’s interim athletic director, he hired former NFL coach and Michigan alum Jim Harbaugh as the Wolverines’ football coach. Judged by that slice of excellent judgment alone, Ford Smart Mobility appears to be in good hands. It needs to be in order to compete with General Motors’ rapidly expanding efforts to compete in the burgeoning “mobility” sector.

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