Ford considering vehicle subscription service for businesses
The new offering could combine electric vehicles, charging infrastructure, maintenance, and EV charging on one bill
SONOMA, Calif. — Ford is considering an all-inclusive vehicle subscription model for fleet businesses that would combine vehicles, maintenance, EV charging stations, and even charging into a single, predictable monthly cost.
Ford CEO Jim Farley shared the plans yesterday with me at a Ford Pro press event here in California wine country, revealing that the main obstacle to such a service was the nature of the bank facility behind Ford Credit. He said that the company needed to overcome some regulatory hurdles to facilitate such an offering.
Though vehicle subscription services have largely failed to get off the ground, companies keep trying to crack that egg. Porsche, Cadillac, and many other brands have tried to sell cars via a monthly subscription fee. Still, only Volvo’s Care By Volvo has seen much traction—and that’s basically a fancy 12-month lease that includes tires and insurance.
But while consumers buying a car via a month-to-month subscription may not make sense except for niche markets like traveling executives and the like, it’s very different for business buyers.
Ford Pro is a new all-encompassing fleet vehicle services business that combines unified invoicing, simplified financing, and bundled solutions for Ford’s small-, mid-, and large-business customers.
Among other things, Ford Pro consultants will help business buyers determine which of the company’s vehicles are optimal for their needs, including new electric products like the Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck and the E-Transit van.
Ford Pro’s customized charging solutions are particularly interesting. The company offers one-stop billing and management solutions across home, depot, and public charging models. The 13,000-station strong BlueOval Charging Network (an amalgamation of stations from providers like Electrify America and EZGo with a unified billing system) allows for businesses to charge on the go, for example.
Many businesses will opt for the depot model of charging, and Ford Pro will help companies determine how many stations will be needed and where to install them, how best to optimize charging for both uptime and the cost of electricity, and, according to Farley, Ford is even looking at helping businesses finance the real estate for their charging stations.
A new concern for fleet customers regarding electric vehicles will be take-home vehicles. Cable companies, for instance, will often allow their technicians to take vehicles home rather than return them to a depot at night. But while this is a non-issue with an internal combustion van, an E-Transit will need to be charged overnight on an employee’s home charging station.
To facilitate this, Ford Pro has developed a cloud solution to track the amount of electricity consumed by a company vehicle at an employee-owned charging station. It handles the invoicing and billing backend to ensure that employees are appropriately reimbursed.
Many of these systems will be enabled by connected Ford vehicles with onboard data connections, and Ford Pro connected telematics will give fleet managers a real-time look at the status of their electric fleet. That includes the current charge, estimated range of each vehicle, and nearby charging stations. Fleets will even have the option to pre-condition vehicles each morning for interior climate and battery temperature optimization to maximize range.
The goal is to make Ford the go-to carmaker for fleet electric vehicles and after-sales SaaS platforms like Ford Pro’s telematics and data services products. The Dearborn, Michigan-based auto giant will be the only carmaker offering both a full-size electric pickup truck and an electric cargo van for at least a year.
Both the F-150 Lightning and the E-Transit go on sale later this year. Expect a review of the Ford E-Transit next week.