Signup for our free newsletter:

Uber Would Crush Ford (NYSE: F)

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted April 6, 2015

fordswapNow I’m all for brainstorming. In fact, I firmly believe that “in a brainstorming session” no ideas are bad ideas.

After all, that’s how 3M invented the post-it note, Viagra made it beyond a failed stroke medication (no pun intended), and the first guy wrapped his junk with a sheep’s intestine… kudos to the first woman to allow it, for that matter.

But I’m pretty sure that after a “brainstorming” session – especially one where there are potentially billions of dollars at stake – you’re supposed to only proceed with and hash out those ideas that have value.

In other words, along with developing great ideas, people forget that it’s okay to trash the bad ones.

… like reality television, Justin Bieber’s first record, and the next installment of Fast N Furious.

So what are Ford’s newest flops?

That’s right. Plural.

Ford’s (NYSE: F) running 25 different market penetration tests this year. None of which seem that original, just out of place for an automaker.

One of my favorites is the master plan to lace up the gloves and boldly enter in direct competition with Uber. Yep. Ford is rolling out their own version of Uber, or Lyft, that mustache taxi service with what they’re calling a “Dynamic Social Shuttle”.

If you’re familiar with these glorified cabs – and they are awesome – then you already know the deal. Download the app, order your ride, and in a few minutes a twenty-something hipster will be there to take you wherever you want to go.

… in Ford’s case, most likely a minivan… with several strangers who also happen to be headed your way.

Now, I wouldn’t initially think this plan is all that bad. After all, according to Forbes, Uber is worth upwards of $40 billion.

And Ford wants a piece. Fine.

What the company might forget, however, is that, in a way, they’re stealing market share from… themselves, as the Ford Fusion and Taurus are one of the more popular choices among young Uberites. Not to mention that most taxi’s are Crown Vics.

I see it as a waste of time. Especially when Ford’s “Social Shuttles” won’t be sold, but vertically integrated into the company.

An “A” for Effort?

According to Ford, car ownership, especially in cities, isn’t that big of a deal. In fact, thanks to companies like Zip Car, the urban Enterprise now owned by Hertz, when city dwellers need to take themselves somewhere, they’re realizing they don’t need to spend money on car payments and insurance.

Why should they when for a Netflix-sized membership-fee, they can rent one at any time.

And enter another penetration idea Ford wants to jump in on. They’re referring to it as a “Car swapping program” and it’s coming to a city near you, this year.

I’m curious to learn more details about it. But I still don’t see it being any more successful than Chevy Nova sales in Mexico.

One idea I do like – but again it’s a logistical nightmare – that Ford’s working on is an app that finds parking spaces for you.

But of course, it too is riddled with problems. Is Ford going to “own” parking spaces? In a city that already has meters? How do they keep other people not using the app from taking your spot before you get there?

Makes me think of this classic clip from Seinfeld, where George and Elaine are fighting over a spot in the Big Apple.

I’m not sure any of these ideas will get much ground. But I do applaud Ford for trying. I just hope management did more market research before spending the billions of dollars that all of these programs are going to cost.