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Published on January 11th, 2016 | by Tina Casey

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Big News From Ford: Mystery Car To Be Unveiled At Detroit NAIAS, New FordPass

January 11th, 2016 by  


If you were wondering about that new “mystery car” that Ford has been teasing, wonder a little longer. Here it is on the showroom floor at the North American International Auto Show before the great unveiling scheduled for later today, which is billed as a “Performance News Announcement:”

FORD NAIAS mystery car 2016

We’ll have pix for you short after the 4:45 pm (Detroit time) event. Meanwhile, this morning Ford had some other big news to present.

More Big News From Ford

The other day, we were wondering what big news Ford had left to offer after the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, when the company blizzarded the Intertubes with news about its latest Smart Mobility initiatives, including the Techstars Mobility startup accelerator project.

Well, it appears that Ford has saved the best for last, or at least the most unusual for last. At this morning’s NAIAS press conference, Ford rolled out a potentially transformative customer engagement product called FordPass:

Ford FordPass

As explained by Ford CEO and President Mark Fields, Ford historically has relied on a customer engagement model that typically kicks in a year before the customer makes a purchase, and then goes into deep hibernation until the customer is ready for another new car.

That was then. Introducing FordPass with the comment, “We’re going to disrupt ourselves,” Fields explained that the new service will launch in April with a continuous 24/7 customer engagement experience, with the aim of transforming its relationship with drivers in the same way that Apple transformed the music industry with iTunes.

In keeping with the iTunes theme, FordPass is free to all car owners, not just Ford customers.

FordPass participants get access to mobility products (that’s the “Marketplace”), 24/7 assistance from real live “mobility guides” for help with gridlock alternatives and other transportation issues, a customer rewards program, and something called Ford Hubs.

The Ford Hubs will be brick-and-mortar facilities where people can come and learn about the latest mobility technology, without any sales pressure. The first one opens in New York City in April, so stay tuned.



 

So far, the big buzz on FordPass has been its partnership with McDonald’s and 7-11 for customer appreciation, and its use in finding parking spots (or finding your car if you forget where you parked it). That doesn’t seem particularly deep, but we’re thinking there’s more to it than you might think. McDonald’s, for example, is only just beginning to realize its full potential as a transportation company, and the parking thing involves not one but three partners: ParkWhiz, Parkopedia, and FlightCar.

At the press conference, Ford CTO and EVP for Product Development Raj Nair also told us all to look forward to other new products and initiatives to come. We’ll have more details on those as they roll out, including the outcomes of Ford’s new wearables lab, including biometric devices that can help you recognize when you’re too tired to drive before you even feel yourself drifting into a stupor; a pilot program for a new lease-sharing option that enables up to 6 drivers to share the cost of owning a car; a related lease program that enables you to apply unused miles to your next lease; and an expansion of Ford’s autonomous driving fleet, including a world-first test in snowy conditions.

What About The Cars!

Oh, right, the cars. The packed Ford press conference showcased the new Raptor F-150 and the new Fusion, including this honey below, the newest Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid. It’s not a full 100% EV, but you can switch to “EV Now” mode with the push of a button to draw mainly from the battery, or go for the 500+ mile range by drawing on the gas tank in “auto EV” mode:

Fusion Ford Hybrid EV

And look, US Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware) was there!

Senator Tom Carper Ford NAIAS

So was Ryan Seacrest, btw, but we couldn’t get close enough for a nice shot.

We’ll have more news from Detroit tomorrow, so stay tuned. 
 





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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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