DETROIT -- Ford Motor Credit Co. will continue to find ways to play a role in the so-called sharing economy, CEO Joy Falotico told Automotive News, even though its shared-lease pilot program in Austin, Texas, has closed. The pilot closed in part because of a lack of consumers signing up for it.
Falotico said the captive will apply what it has learned from the pilot as it develops more experiments tailored to the sharing economy.
"We'll pivot, and we'll continue to experiment," Falotico said, by "looking at more flexible products and solutions and looking at ... what kind of financing products we need for the shared side."
In March, Ford Credit launched Ford Credit Link, a pilot lease-sharing program that allowed three to six customers to share a lease, scheduling their driving time and dividing payments any way they liked. Ford Credit piloted the program at three Austin dealerships: Leif Johnson Ford, Maxwell Ford and Covert Ford.
In June, spokeswoman Margaret Mellott said there was a "good flow" of traffic to Ford Credit Link's website, but no customers had signed up. That month, Ford Credit launched digital billboards in the area to increase awareness.
Customer participation still suffered. The reasons, Falotico said, had to do with the challenge of finding people to share a lease with and the fear that comes with joint liability.
"The contract was joint and severally liable, and so for consumers to come together that maybe weren't related, that was something that they were concerned about," Falotico said. "And then secondly, we learned that we probably needed to create what I'll call a "Match.com' that brings consumers together as part of the solution, and we didn't have that. So consumers were having trouble finding their group to share with."
Ford this year launched a mobile wallet called FordPay to support the services that will be in FordPass, a free smartphone app, which launched in January as a resource to help drivers find parking and check transportation options for specific routes, Falotico said.
As for traditional leasing, Ford has run below the industry standard for the past couple of years. In the third quarter, Ford Credit's lease penetration was 18 percent, compared with the industry's 29.5 percent, according to Experian.
Falotico said the lower rate was deliberate and reflected Ford Credit's analysis of the impact of a rising volume of off-lease vehicles on residual values.