Ford’s vehicles not sole focus of Super Bowl ad

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

For the first time in recent company history, Ford Motor Co.’s Super Bowl commercial does not focus solely on a new vehicle.

The 90-second ad focused on Ford’s development of “long-term mobility solutions” will air before the kickoff of Sunday’s Super Bowl. The spot is a big change for Ford, which typically develops Super Bowl commercials featuring the company’s F-Series or other vehicles.

The company wants to show it is working on transportation and mobility solutions not commonly associated with the Dearborn-based auto company, said Chantel Lenard, Ford’s U.S. marketing director.

The new message coincides with remarks offered by Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford during the Detroit auto show in which he outlined his vision for the future of mobility, a concept that wraps autonomous vehicles, ride-sharing, bike-sharing, connected vehicles and other transit options into one “solution” in Ford’s “City of Tomorrow” concept.

Monday’s announcement coincides with Ford opening its first FordHub in New York City. The FordHub will function as an “interactive brand experience,” according to a news release. It aims to show how the company is expanding to focus on mobility as much as automobiles, and get people to think about the future of transportation.

The ad and new hub respectively allow Ford to reach a mass audience and engage directly with consumers while developing mobility strategies, said Elena Ford, vice president of global dealer and consumer experience.

“We’ll always stay true to our core ... we’re always going to (make automobiles), that’s a very important part of our business, but as the landscape changes ... we want to be a part of that,” she said. “We want to showcase to customers what our ideas are, and we want to gain feedback from them.”

The FordHub has a map tracking the “pulse” of New York City by monitoring traffic information, and a game of sorts in which guests earn points while picking between different mobility options. A team of Ford innovation and vehicle experts, named FordGuides, will assist guests at the New York City hub.

Ford will also take proposals through its Mobilize New York Challenge, which is offering more than $30,000 in cash prizes for new ideas to solve the city’s transportation challenges.

The company plans to open a second FordHub in San Francisco, where Ford’s recently-purchased Chariot shuttle service is based.

“Ford was founded on the promise of providing affordable transportation solutions to millions of customers, and this commitment still drives us today,” said Stephen Odell, Ford executive vice president of global marketing, and sales and service, in a statement. “As we expand our business to be both an auto and mobility company, we’re using new experiences like FordHub and our first Super Bowl ad that talks about the future to explain what we mean when we say ‘We Go Further so you can.’”

Ford has said it will have a fully driverless car without a steering wheel or pedals on the road in 2021. In 2017, the company plans to triple the number of its autonomous test vehicles.

The expansion builds on the addition of 20 second-generation Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Development Vehicles to its original 10-car fleet in 2016. The company will expand the fleet to 90 total vehicles by the end of this year with the addition of 60 more cars.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau