Ford is launching a new ‘connected car’ at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. As Ivor Bennett reports, the auto maker's choice of venue for the launch highlights the importance of sector.
It certainly doesn't look like a phone. But at Mobile World Congress that no longer matters. Ford's new Kuga SUV proof that connectivity comes in all shapes and sizes. CEO Mark Fields. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MARK FIELDS, CEO, FORD, SAYING: "We're using this event to really put an explanation point on how we're transforming from an auto company to an auto and a mobility company, all wrapped around technology." (SOUNDBITE) (English) IVOR BENNETT, REUTERS REPORTER, SAYING: "The idea is for this the car to be an extension of your phone. So when you sit here you can access your apps, your messages and your media without taking your hands off the wheel." When it comes to parking, though, you can. The car is fitted with technology that means it can master those tight spots by itself. It's an area where Ford is tripling investment. CCS Insight's Ben Wood says it's no surprise - this is, after all, a two-way street. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BEN WOOD, CHIEF OF RESEARCH, CCS INSIGHT, SAYING: "There's zero room for complacency for the car manufacturers. It's a tough business. Some big transitions happening - move to electric vehicles, the whole autonomous car space, you've got Google aggressively targeting that market as well - I think they've got to be very careful." The company's new car-sharing scheme suggests it already is. Due to be rolled out in Europe, it'll be open to anyone, whether Ford owner or not. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MARK FIELDS, CEO, FORD, SAYING: "What we want FordPass to do for the auto industry is what iTunes did for the music industry. And hopefully for those customers going forward who want to buy a vehicle, will consider a Ford, and those customers who never own a vehicle, are exposed to Ford and use some of the services we provide." There are rumours Ford's poised to announce a partnership with Google. Though he didn't comment directly, Fields did talk of opportunities rather than threats. A hint perhaps that this is a case of 'if you can't beat them, join them'.