DEARBORN - Today, Ford Motor Company and Zipcar – the world’s leading car-sharing network – announced a new strategic alliance establishing Ford as Zipcar’s largest university vehicle source. The first-of-its-kind, two-year tie-up introduces a new generation of drivers to Ford vehicles – including the highly fuel-efficient Focus and Escape – as part of Zipcar’s existing fleet of environmentally friendly, reliable and fun vehicles. John Felice, general manager, Ford and Lincoln Marketing, recently discussed the new venture with @Ford Online. Below are excerpts from that discussion.
Q. Why have Ford and Zipcar teamed up?
A. Universities are looking for a way to reduce the number of vehicles on campus. And Zipcars on 250 campuses around the U.S. and will partner with us to put Ford vehicles on these campuses. This gives us an opportunity to have our wonderful new products like the all-new Ford Focus, the Escape…and put those on campuses where these young people, who may not have experience with Ford products, get a chance to experience a Ford vehicle for the first time.
Q. What incentives is Ford offering to students who want to rent a Zipcar?
A. We will subsidize the Zipcar membership for university students on participating campuses by $10, in partnership with Zipcar. We'll also subside the hourly rates by $1. Doesn’t sound like a big amount of money, but for college students, a dollar an hour can add up to a pretty big deal.
Q. How does this fit into Ford's sustainability strategy?
A. There is a need for alternative modes of transportation. One of the other big trends we're seeing globally is urbanization with more people in city centers. They need a different solution for mobility. There's mass-transit, there's car-sharing models like the model with Zipcar, and again it give us a chance to be part of the solution in the space.
Q. Why the Focus and the Escape?
A. One of the things we've found, or Zipcar has found with college students especially, is sometimes they need a package. Something with a large package that can carry four people, and also stuff behind the seat. Escape fits that need very well and Ford Focus is really a perfect fit for this. C-car type vehicles are really in the wheel-house of what college students most often need. The majority of their fleet is C-sized type vehicles, and with the all-new Focus, with its leadership in fuel economy, technology and safety it’s a really good fit for college students.
Q. What happens next?
A. We know that if we can get people behind the wheel that it will influence their opinion of Ford and that ultimately it will increase the likelihood of selling them a vehicle when they're in need. This program gives us that opportunity. It gives us a high frequency of test drives with college students that quite frankly, looking at the Zipcar fleet today, were driving Japanese and Korean products. And when they leave Zipcar to buy a vehicle, 80 percent say they're influenced by what they drove as a Zipster. It gives us a chance to put them behind the wheel of a Ford versus one of our competitors.
Q. What relationship will Ford have with the universities?
A. We will be their exclusive marketing partner on campus with the universities. Another benefit the Zipcar relationship brings is that it’s very difficult for an OEM to market on campus. No surprise, they're very protective of over-commercializing university campuses. Zipcar is embraced by the universities because they bring a solution on campus to reduce cluttering and to bring convenient transportation to students. We will have the right to exclusively market on campus with Zipcar.
Q. What does this mean for Ford?
A. This is a big idea. I mean for us, to touch the right kind of customers that may never think about Ford and may have not grown up with Ford – especially with the product portfolio we have today – is a great opportunity. We have the chance to reach so many people that are the perfect demographic to get a new exposure to Ford. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity.