Study highlights Kiwi love affair with cars

New Zealanders provided an expected – but still useful – response to a Ford survey into mobility habits.

KIWI respondents to a survey by Ford to achieve clarity about mobility options within Asia Pacific stated the obvious in respect to New Zealand conditions, a brand spokesman has admitted, however their responses are still valid and could help create a better local roadscape.

Some 1050 New Zealanders were among the 12,619 involvers in an online survey of 12 markets conducted last December and in January by GlobalWebIndex on behalf of Ford, to assess perceptions and habits relating to mobility.

The crux of the feedback was that car ownership in New Zealand is among the highest in the world, and that Kiwis are reluctant to leave their wheels at home and take public transport or even share their rides with others.

Tom Clancy, Ford New Zealand’s communications and Government relations manager, agrees that while the national love affair with cars is, in one way, good for distributors – because it means more sales – on the other hand the brand recognises that change about how we use cars, and who is driving them, is inevitable.

“Ford recognises the way people get from A to B is changing,” he explained to MotoringNetwork.

“For example, a lot of teens don't even want to own a car anymore. Many people already see the car as merely an appliance. Add to that, the likes of Google and Apple are new competitors and to them it's the software, not the car, that is important.  

“So Ford sees a future where it is the entire mobility landscape that is the opportunity. We will still focus on our core - we're still going to make cars people want to drive. But the biggest opportunity in the future is how Ford can be a part of the entire mobility landscape - be it multi-modal transport, car sharing, autonomous vehicles or however people choose to get from A to B.”

Clancy says the survey is just the beginning.

“We’re taking a look to see what the current state of play is in all the markets.In New Zealand, it's very new and people are still very reliant on their own cars. I guess that’s not something we didn’t already know.

“But from this we also know people want a choice. They want alternatives. Those alternatives are not limited to just EVs or Hybrids.

“Ford is already looking at mobility alternatives and has initiatives already underway in many parts of the world. With this survey Ford now has a better idea of what can work in New Zealand.”

It’s all new for Ford NZ, too, he says. Even something as basic as car-sharing has never been pushed by the brand but that’s not say it, and other better use concepts, might not be in the future.

One technology that offers a potential is the Sync infotainment and sat nav system now in most Ford vehicles. The traffic alert function is a basics of the traffic connectivity that Ford is looking to promote more seriously internationally.

Cars here at present generally run Sync 2, the second generation, however by year-end this market will have Sync 3 (left), which is a complete overhaul of the current setup; so much of a fresh start that cars with the current infrastructure cannot be upgraded through a software patch.

The immediate plus point with Sync 3 is than it enables Apple CarPlay and Android Auto however it also delivers an improved functionality for current supported actions and is thought to create ability for broader sat nav interactions.

Ford says new system is faster and more smartphone-like, with features like swiping, pinch-to-zoom and a unified one-box search function. It has also refined the voice control system with more natural speech recognition. As a for instance drivers can say “twelve-sixty-two Smith St” instead of “one-two-six-two Smith St”.

The Mustang, the new Edge (pictured here) that is widely perceived to be a replacement for the current Territory, the Focus and potentially the Kuga are cited as being likely to have Sync 3 within the 12 months. Mustang might enable before the end of the year, MotoringNetwork has been told.

Insofar as other Ford technologies go, there is less certainty about how, if and when.

At the moment there is no indication when the brand here might be able to step further into what is already a ‘now’ for other rivals -  specifically the sale of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full electric cars, all of which have been internationally cited as key ingredients of an easier-driving future.

Though Ford has a range of vehicles that are wholly to partially assisted by battery propulsion in North America, Clancy was unable to cite any that might be available in right-hand-drive, either immediately or in the future.

Ford’s ultimate endeavour with Smart Mobility is to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics.

The brand intent to to continue research and development across the technology and transportation landscape, including in-car connectivity, flexible ownership models and car-sharing programmes, autonomous vehicles, and much more.

Said Clancy: “Transport technology innovations will increasingly be more important to solving some of the congestion issues in New Zealand’s major cities.

“Ford New Zealand is looking to see what Ford is doing in other regions and markets around the world to see how such innovations can be implemented here to improve Kiwis’ daily commute.

“Regarding NZ transport options – that would no doubt be one of the lead reasons why our private vehicle usage is one of the highest in the region. There simply isn’t a viable alternative for most people at the moment.

“We’d need to look at NZ’s specific issues. This mobility survey is one way to get a good picture of those issues and environment.”