MONEY Autos

Ford to Test a Car-Sharing Service

Ford is joining the likes of Zipcar and other car-sharing services.

The 112-year-old automotive company is partnering with car-sharing companies Getaround (in America) and easyCar Club (in the U.K.) to test an all-Ford, peer-to-peer car-sharing service for drivers. The test will run through November in six cities: San Francisco; Berkeley; Oakland; Portland, Ore.; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago. Ford will directly invite around 14,000 American and 12,000 British customers to try out the service. GM launched a similar car-sharing program in 2012, but ended it not long after.

Read next: 3 Ways to Avoid Costly Rental Car Insurance

TIME Ford

Ford Thinks You’ll Rent Your Car to Help Pay Your Monthly Payment

Better hope no one spills anything

Do you have your eye on a certain Ford vehicle, but you’re not sure you’ll be able to afford the monthly payments? Well, the company has a solution for you: rent out your car for short periods, offsetting the cost.

The new program is called Peer-2-Peer Car Sharing, and it’s available now as a pilot program in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and London. Ford cited research showing that one-third of millennials were interested in renting out their car as a way to supplement their income.

Right now, only customers invited by Ford can participate. To rent your car, it has to be financed through Ford Credit, the financing arm of Ford. Combined with Ford’s recently announced car sharing service in London, it’s clear the Detroit company wants to keep up with younger transportation leaders such as Uber and Car2Go.

MONEY Autos

Test Drive the Fun and Affordable Mustang GT

The new Mustang GT is big fun in a small—and, at 36K for racetrack-worthy performance—reasonably priced package.

When Carroll Shelby was asked by Ford in 1964 to build a GT version of its new Mustang, the race car builder didn’t hide his derision. “I don’t know. It’s a secretary’s car,” he told Lee Iacocca, according to Go Like Hell, a very readable history of Henry Ford II’s obsession with beating Ferrari on the track. Shelby was right in that Ford created Mustang as much for young women—a schoolteacher bought the very first one—as for hot rodders. Still, The Deuce paid Shelby’s bills, so Ford got what it wanted.

And what Ford got was epic: the Mustang GT350. Shelby would also build the equally famous Cobra Mustang, early versions of which now trade for north of $1 million. Although Mustang has had its ups and downs (say, the 1980s), Shelby’s racing heart still beats today in the 2015 version of the GT, the latest in the 50th anniversary year of the Mustang.

What Shelby first created was nothing pretentious, just a stunning amount of engine jammed in that puny Pony body. The first GT350 used a modified 289 (about 4.8 liters) small-block V-8 that pushed out 305 horsepower. The current GT lives up to the legend, putting forth 435 hp out of a 5.0-liter V-8. Unlike the original GT, this one has a back seat, although it’s quite useless.

What I’ve liked about the last couple of GTs is that toeing the gas pedal on one of these things is like kicking the dragon. The GT is a firebreather. No, it’s not quite as fast as a Corvette, but at half the price it has more than enough fury in it to make you giddy as the speedometer jumps toward 100 miles per hour.

Likes its tamer six- and four-cylinder versions, the GT has been redesigned to be a global automobile. All earlier Mustangs were made in the U.S. and exported. Ford now wants to be able to build the Pony Car around the world. That necessitated some changes, and a challenge. As Mark Fields, who is now CEO, told me during the design process, the biggest challenge his team got from Ford chairman Bill Ford was, “Don’t f–k it up.”

They didn’t. The 2015 Mustang is lower and wider than the fifth generation, with that distinctive Mustang fastback rear deck. But a couple of thing had to change. For one, the new model has independent rear suspension in place of the stiffer, solid axle in the back that racers favored. But after making that switch, Ford then realized that the front-end had to be changed too. It was. The result seems to be much better handling in the curves and, certainly in the 3.2-liter version, a much smoother ride—although it’s never going to be buttery in a Mustang GT. It’s just not made for that.

As is typical of Mustang, you can get in the car at fairly low price—$36,000 in the V-8 GT with a six-speed automatic—and then decide how much racier you want to get, in both style and performance. For instance, there’s a limited-slip rear axle option and a bigger brake package that real racers favor. You can add Recaro racing chairs for an extra $1,700. That helped pushed our test GT up to $46,000. The car also comes with toggle-switch operated steering and driving modes: normal, sport, track, and rain/snow. The gauges also allow you to track your acceleration and race performance.

Not going to take it on the track? That’s okay. Most Mustang owners won’t, but driving down the road, everyone will certainly think you are.

 

TIME Autos

Ford’s Zipcar-Killer Is Launching in This City

Ford Brings Dynamic Car-Sharing Experiment to London; First Serv
Ford Ford Brings Dynamic Car-Sharing Experiment to London

It's an on-demand rental service called "GoDrive"

Ford is going head-to-head with Zipcar as it launches its new GoDrive car rental service in London.

The app-based service will allow users to pick up one of Ford’s 50 vehicles on-demand and drop it off at one of a number of hubs across central London. When a users books a car through the service, they automatically book a parking spot at one the 20 available locations, making one-way trips stress-free.

The service uses a pay-per-minute pricing approach that covers all fees, including congestion fees, insurance and fuel. A pilot program launched earlier this year with 100 members. Ford is now extending GoDrive’s reach to 2,000 members.

The global car-sharing industry is expected to exceed $6 billion by 2020, and the U.K. car-sharing sector alone is expected to grow 23% from 2013 to 2015, according to PwC research. But even as the industry booms, car-sharers are looking for more flexibility.

“Our research tells us that car clubs currently are perceived as inflexible when it comes to booking, time slots and return locations,”said Alicia Agius, project lead, GoDrive, Ford of Europe. “Features such as one-way journeys and pay-as-you-go extend the number of opportunities that drivers would want to car-share and could prove a game-changer.”

GoDrive is Ford’s move to take on car-sharing kings like Zipcar as well as ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft which are trying to become realistic replacements for car ownership, especially in major metropolitan areas. The service is also an opportunity for Ford to show off its electric vehicles. Half of the GoDrive fleet will consist of zero-emission Focus electric models.

The London launch is still in beta phase, and the automaker plans to tweak its service as it learns more about its members. Ford is also exploring car-sharing experiments in Germany, India and the U.S.

MONEY Autos

Ford Recalls Almost a Half-Million Cars for Power Steering Problem

Ford Reports $997 Million Third Quarter Profit
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A Ford Taurus, one of the vehicles included in the company's recall

Power steering may switch to manual mode while driving

Ford on Wednesday issued a recall affecting a variety of their cars and SUVs, because of an “intermittent electrical connection” that can cause power steering to cut out and change the steering to manual mode. This can make the vehicle more difficult to steer and could result in the increased risk of a crash, according to Ford.

The recall covers some models of the 2011 through 2013 Ford Flex and Taurus, and the Lincoln MKS and MKT; the 2011 and 2012 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ; and certain 2011 Mercury Milans.

Dealers will either update power steering software or replace the steering gear.

Ford is also recalling nearly 20,000 2015 Mustangs with 2.3 liter engines because of an issue that can degrade their fuel tanks.

TIME Autos

Ford CEO Mark Fields Wants to Make a Self-Driving Car for the Masses

Ford President and CEO Mark Fields speaks at Ford's manufacturing facility and engineering plant in Sanand, India on March 26, 2015.
Ajit Solanki—AP Ford President and CEO Mark Fields speaks at Ford's manufacturing facility and engineering plant in Sanand, India on March 26, 2015.

The company, "where it makes sense," will cooperate with Google and others on self-driving cars

Ford CEO Mark Fields is trying to navigate his company through an era of upheaval in the auto industry. Cars are no longer merely steel on wheels. They’re mobile computers that can respond to voice commands, serve as a hub for digital entertainment and drive themselves.

Fortune spoke with Fields recently at Ford’s Silicon Valley lab, an office that opened earlier this year as a beachhead for innovation. He’s hoping that having workers on the ground in the heart of the tech industry’s capital will help the company identify and adopt new technology more quickly. Ford is facing a stiff challenge to keep up from the usual auto making suspects plus newcomers like Google and Tesla. Even Uber, the ride hailing app, is a threat if people stop buying cars and use its service instead to be driven where they need to go.

The following is a Q&A with Fields that has been edited for length and clarity:

Q: How important are self-driving cars to Ford?

They’re important. But it’s more important to think about self-driving cars more holistically. We call this Ford Smart Mobility. It’s not only about autonomous vehicles, it’s about the connected car, it’s about mobility and ride sharing. It’s around the enabling technologies for the retail experience. All these things are connected. You can’t have an autonomous vehicle unless you have a connected car, and visa versa. You can’t have ride sharing without having the connection. They’re all intertwined.

Q: Is it important to be first? Ford isn’t really seen as being in the lead on self-driving cars.

It’s not the No. 1 thing that drives us. I think the No. 1 thing that drives us, and it gets back to our DNA as a company going back to our founder, Henry Ford, is around innovating to make things accessible to everyone — not just the rich. Even now, semi-autonomous features are the building blocks for full autonomy. When you look the breadth of semi-autonomous features that we have in our vehicles, we’re in a leading position there. With everything from our Fiesta all the way up to our Lincolns — customers can get a lot of these features. So as we go forward, we’re going to make sure that we continue to build on that legacy and push ourselves to make sure it’s accessible and affordable – not necessarily being the first.

Q: Are you considering partnering with Google, which is only a few miles from here, or other companies on self-driving cars?

When you think about some of these enabling technologies, we have to ask ourselves some very important questions like what do we want to develop as our own core competency? Who do we want to partner with? We’ve done that throughout our history as a company. Where it makes sense, we’ll work with others.

Q: You talk about selling autonomous vehicles to the masses, but the components cost thousands of dollars extra. How do you get to the price where the average person can buy a self-driving car?

You innovate. In Silicon Valley, there’s Moore’s Law (the axiom that microchips will get more powerful and less expensive). I don’t know what the law is for the automotive industry. We’re always looking for ways to increase performance and capabilities and decrease cost. There are cameras, radars, and 3-D mapping. When you look at the cost of cameras, it’s coming down significantly. When you get to autonomous vehicles, you’ll need much more computer processing capability in the vehicle. The cost of microprocessors is continuing to go down. Also, scale is important, and as a company, I think we have pretty good scale.

Q: How much of a challenge is Uber under the theory that fewer people will need to buy cars in the future?

We’re looking at some of these societal trends around mega cities with more than 10 million or more vehicles – the congestion, the air quality implications, and the growth of the middle class around the globe. Of course, the first thing they want to do is buy a car, which increases the congestion even more. We’re looking at that as an opportunity in two ways: One is to sell cars to people who want to own them. Two is to provide mobility experiences to people who otherwise we are not serving today. We’re doing these 25 experiments around the world right now – we’re about halfway through them – to understand what are some of the mobility issues [Editor’s note: the experiments include a car sharing service, a commuter shuttle service, and technology that spots open parking spaces]. Then we’re asking ourselves: How do we help solve some of these societal issues?

Q: How are those experiments going? And are you really interested in getting into those businesses?

It may seem far-fetched from a traditional automaker. But we’re asking our people to challenge and question tradition. That’s extremely empowering to the organization. This is a culture of innovation. We as a senior team need to allow it. Not all of these experiments will succeed. But that’s okay, because we are looking to learn from them. Some may go on to the next step and ultimately become some kind of service or product.

Q: How much do the high valuations of tech companies dissuade you from making tech acquisitions?

Any company needs to be always on the lookout for technology that makes sense. It gets back to what I mentioned earlier: Making decisions about what’s core for us versus who do we want to go out and partner with. In some cases, we have made acquisitions. We bought a company called Livio about two years ago (a developer of in-car connectivity software), because we thought that was core for us. But I think also you have to be wary of it. Because what can look like a really cool technology this month, may look like something else in six months.

Q: How much to you pay attention to the really far-out tech beyond self-driving cars?

In our business, you have one foot in today – making sure you’re running your business, meeting your sales forecasts, meeting your quarterly earnings – and also one foot into tomorrow: 10, 15 years down the road. We have a very disciplined process. That’s one of the reasons we’re here and growing. Some of these unique technologies are being born here today as we speak and will be born six months from now. That’s why it’s important for us to be part of this community.

Q: Ford’s is facing a tough challenge in China. General Motors and Volkswagen sell a lot of cars there. How is Ford going to do better?

We’re doing very well now in China. We’ve had record market share. In the first quarter this year, our share was 4.5%. Clearly that’s not as large as some of our main competitors who are in the 10% or 11% range. But that’s up from almost 2% a couple of years ago. In the first quarter, we went from No. 8 in the passenger vehicle segment to No. 5. We were in Shanghai last week introducing our Taurus. We were not in the full-size segment – that’s a big segment in China. Now we’re going to be there. We now have a full lineup of SUVs. We’re expanding our manufacturing capability. We’re expanding our dealer network, particularly in the Tier 3 through 6 cities, where a lot of the growth is coming from.

Q: Ford is pushing to make Lincoln a global luxury brand. It’s not the first time. Similar efforts have ebbed and flowed over the years.

It’s flowing now.

Q: Why is this time different?

The reason it’s different this time is that we understand the strategic importance of the luxury market. The luxury market is maybe 9.5% or 10% of the global industry. When you look at the profitability, it’s about one-third. So it’s very compelling. There are a lot of good competitors in the luxury segment. We thought long and hard about how do we differentiate Lincoln in a relevant way. At the same time, we have to understand that we are one of the smallest luxury players. So how do we turn that to our advantage and give that customer personal service? When you look at our dealerships in China, which we get to start from a clean sheet, it’s like walking into a high-end boutique. It’s not one of these large factory-type things like a bakery where you take a number.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

MONEY Autos

For About $78,000, You Can Buy an ‘Entry Level’ Maserati

The new entry-level Maserati is powerful but occasionally disappointing. Here's what it's like to take one for a drive.

You don’t have to explain to anyone what Maserati is. The brand is known worldwide, and it stands for Italian style and speed. But as Maserati’s North American boss Christian Gobber explains it, the brand is better known than the products, because only a select number of people, some 200,000 worldwide, actually own a Maserati.

The goal behind Maserati’s latest vehicle, the Ghibli, is to help expand ownership to as many as a million customers worldwide. Ghibli is Maserati’s entry-level vehicle — entry level in this case being north of $75,000. “It starts with design,” says Gobber. “It gets your attention. But it has a muscular yet elegant duality.”

It sure does. There is no mistaking this beauty for a mere luxury sedan. The front end practically preens.

Then you start the motor in sport mode, with its ferociously tuned exhaust, and you are speaking Italian. Because in the Q4 model, which we tested, you have 404 Ferrari-built horses — an entire palio— under your hood. You’ll race to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds, and to 100 mph in a few ticks more. This is real power, delivered impeccably through the popular 8-speed ZF automatic transmission. And in our black-on-black model, you do this wrapped in a cockpit outfitted in exquisite, hand-stitched Italian leather and a plush chair. The car has a sound system that Verdi would envy.

Yes, you can get a comparably equipped Mercedes or Audi that can claim a smoother ride than the Ghibli, and a little bit better execution on the small things, which is certainly no small thing. For instance, the car is lacking in some safety features, such as blind spot warning lights and adaptive cruise control, that are standard on many Fords. I guess Maserati feels that a blind spot indicator isn’t necessary if nobody is going to pass you.

Next up for Maserati is an SUV, the Levante, due next year. That will further democratize the brand, as if that were even possible.

MONEY Warren Buffett

Why History Will Forget Warren Buffett–But Investors Never Will

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett
Bill Pugliano—Getty Images

Unlike the great business moguls of America's past, Buffett didn't invent a product or process that will live on in perpetuity.

How will historians write about Warren Buffett 100 years from now? Will they treat him like the magnificent Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt? Or will the 84-year-old multibillionaire play a more muted role in history books, akin to the venerated Gilded Age stock operator Henry Clews? I believe it will be the latter. While Buffett’s shareholder letters secure his place in the minds of curious future investors, his unique role in American finance, coupled with the fate of his fortune, seems to ensure a subdued legacy.

Buffett’s contribution is hard to define

It would be silly to argue that Buffett isn’t one of the most accomplished Americans alive today. He transformed an ailing textile company into a vast conglomerate holding dozens of profitable subsidiaries. His investment returns over half a century are second to none. He taught millions of people how to invest in a prudent yet lucrative manner. And he acted as a savior during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, injecting billions of dollars into ailing businesses during the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

But unlike the great business moguls of America’s past, Buffett didn’t invent a product or process that will live on in perpetuity. Vanderbilt gave us steamship lines, the New York Central Railroad, and New York City’s Grand Central Station. Carnegie industrialized steel, paving the way for skyscrapers and the Golden Gate Bridge. Ford popularized mass production and democratized the automobile. Even J. P. Morgan, while playing a similar role to Buffett’s, put America’s financial sector on the map by supplanting the Rothschilds and Baring brothers at the summit of global finance.

By comparison, Buffett’s contribution is more elusive. As William Thorndike points out in The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success, Buffett’s innovation consisted of using insurance float to fund a corporate conglomerate. It was brilliant, and others have since copied this approach — most notably, hedge fund manager David Einhorn and the team at Markel Corporation — but outside of finance, Buffett’s innovative use of float is difficult for the average person to grasp and all but impossible to copy.

Forgoing dynasty and monuments to wealth

Buffett also decided nearly a decade ago to donate the lions’ share of his now $71 billion fortune to philanthropic organizations. He explained at the time that neither he nor his late wife Susan Buffett ever wanted to give their children dynastic wealth. “Our kids are great,” Buffett told Fortune’s Carol Loomis. “But I would argue that when your kids have all the advantages anyway, in terms of how they grow up and the opportunities they have for education, including what they learn at home — I would say it’s neither right nor rational to be flooding them with money.”

This decision puts Buffett in rarefied company. It elicits comparisons to Carnegie, who, at the age of 65, sold his empire to a J. P. Morgan-controlled trust, known today as U.S. Steel, and spent the rest of his life giving away his fortune. Or to Alfred P. Sloan, the one-time head of General Motors who, childless like Carnegie, used his fortune to endow an array of philanthropic organizations that continue to finance the arts, education, and science 50 years after his death.

But what distinguishes Buffett’s charitable giving from the likes of Carnegie’s and Sloan’s is its anonymity. The Ford family created the Ford Foundation. J. Paul Getty created the J. Paul Getty Trust. Robert Wood Johnson, a founder of Johnson & Johnson, has the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. All of these people also have libraries, university buildings, museums, and performing arts centers that conspicuously bear their names. Meanwhile, Buffett is giving most of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Along these same lines, there’s little reason to believe that Buffett will leave behind grand residences or other monuments that will keep his achievements fresh in the minds of future generations. John D. Rockefeller built the Kykuit mansion. Two of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s grandsons constructed the Biltmore Estate and The Breakers. And J. P. Morgan’s library and mansion continue to occupy almost an entire city block in midtown Manhattan. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of tourists visit these residences every year. Yet Buffett still lives in the same five-bedroom house on Omaha’s Farnam Street that he purchased for $31,500 in 1958.

Buffett’s gift to future generations

What Buffett will leave, of course, are his letters to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. These overflow with pithy anecdotes and invaluable lessons about investing, and they’re written in a style that’s accessible to even novice investors. They teach us the importance of being “greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy.” They introduce the concept of a durable competitive advantage. And they drive home the point that it’s “far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.”

However, while Buffett’s writings are destined to live on in perpetuity, they will eventually be familiar to only a small niche of investors. The legacy of Henry Clews, the famed money manager from the Gilded Age, serves as a revealing analogy. Like Buffett, Clews was brilliant, generous with his knowledge, and conscious to communicate the lessons he learned in accessible language. And like Buffett, Clews — though to a lesser degree — was financially successful and widely respected by his peers. But even though Clews went on to write the eminently readable and instructive classic on investing 50 Years in Wall Street, few people today have heard Clews’ name, and even fewer are familiar with his writings.

All of this isn’t to say that Buffett doesn’t deserve a greater role in history books than he seems likely to get. He personifies the American dream, second only to Benjamin Franklin. He achieved phenomenal success, becoming the world’s second-richest person without compromising his integrity or losing his humility. Yet by forgoing the opportunity to create dynastic wealth, choosing instead to vest his friend Bill Gates’ organization with the lion’s share of his fortune, Buffett has all but ensured for himself a diminished role in the minds of subsequent generations.

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