Ford reinvents the showroom to sell “mobility,” rather than cars.
Ford’s new hub, which launched in February, doesn’t sell cars or car accessories. Instead, the showroom space (dubbed “FordHub”) sells the idea that transportation in the future will look completely different from today. As technology advances and consumers come to see the negative impact of fossil fuel usage and the downsides of cars clogging urban streets, transportation options will begin to shift towards greener and more efficient modes.
The FordHub is located in the one-year-old Westfield World Trade Center mall in lower Manhattan. FordGuide experts greet all visitors, who can navigate the space using a personalized HUBCard. Experiences include Mustang over Manhattan, a VR game where you build a Ford Mustang on the top of the Empire State Building, an interactive screen which shows potential mobility problems solved by Ford products (including, but not limited to, cars), and a permanent installation of 5,000 miniature Ford car models which light up to mimic traffic patterns. Ford’s 2017 “Go Further” campaign similarly highlights the company’s innovations beyond automobiles.
Rather than being a temporary pop-up, the FordHub is a permanent space that shows consumers Ford’s plans to become a mobility company as well as an automotive one. “We see this as an actively dynamic space, featuring innovations we have today and others we are exploring for tomorrow, said Elena Ford, Ford Vice President for Global Dealers and Consumer Experience in a press release. “We want consumers to join us and be part of creating the world’s mobility solutions.”
Car ownership is expected to experience a long-term decline, as even a majority of auto industry execs will admit. Therefore, automotive brands like Ford will need to reinvent their business models. It will no longer be about providing cars for personal ownership, but rather about helping people to get around the city in the best way possible. Ford’s new business model will be about proving that Ford can help get you from point A to point B in the fastest, most economical, and environmentally sound way.
The transportation category has already being disrupted by startups such as Uber, which now offers UberPOOL and even UberYACHT. Ride-sharing apps such as BlaBlaCar, Google’s Waze Carpool service and ZipCar have also reinvented the category with their ability to link those seeking on-demand transportation with available cars or other drivers, erasing part of the need to own one’s own vehicle.
As more people move into cities, mobility within these areas will get more complicated and congested unless traditional modes of transport like the automobile are supplanted by new mobility systems. The FordHub offers clues to how auto brands like Ford may be able to reposition themselves as a relevant transportation provider for now, and for many years in the future.