DETROIT -- Since it launched 10 months ago, Ford Motor Co.'s FordPass app has been a learning experience for a manufacturer determined to expand into new mobility services.
The do-it-all platform has forced Ford to think more like a tech startup than a traditional automaker. It was developed at a blistering pace over 18 months, and is updated every 30 days with software tweaks or new features developed by minds in Dearborn and Silicon Valley.
The app's rollout hasn't been perfect: It's currently limited to three models (F-150, Escape and Fusion). Some features Ford initially promised either fell through or have yet to be implemented. But FordPass is generating interest in the brand -- its 500,000 downloads to date include about 100,000 non-Ford owners -- and laying groundwork for potential revenue streams.
And while its numbers may pale compared with established tech giants, it puts Ford on the leading edge of proprietary automaker apps.
"One year in we're very optimistic," Elena Ford, vice president, global dealer and consumer experience, told Automotive News. "We feel we've launched a global app that's a one-stop shop for customers."
The app, which lets users do everything from remotely start their car to find and pay for parking, launched in the U.S. in April and has subsequently rolled out in Canada, Germany, France, the U.K. and China. There's a similar Lincoln Way app for luxury customers.
Ford announced the app last year to great fanfare. FordPass was the centerpiece of its 2016 Detroit auto show press conference.
The company called the app “one of its most significant innovations ever,” and CEO Mark Fields said FordPass could be Ford’s “most revolutionary [platform] yet.”
But some of the superlatives may have been premature.
"It definitely has a lot of potential, and we're going to see similar apps and services from other OEMs," said Sam Abuelsamid, senior research analyst at Navigant Research. "But the potential that was built in there has not been realized yet because the partners really aren't in place."
FordPass offers a partnership with ParkWhiz that lets you find and pay for parking in cities. There's also a collaboration with a European-based car-share company to rent cars in the U.K.
But the app initially promised much more.
Upon launch, officials touted a rewards program that has yet to materialize. The company said it would collaborate with companies such as McDonald's, 7-Eleven and others so customers could collect points to redeem for "merchandise and unique experiences."
Instead, FordPass rolled out a "Perks" feature that rewards customers with virtual badges for accomplishing tasks within the app, such as registering a vehicle. They're also able to download ringtones and wallpaper.