Ford Mines Massive Amounts Of Vehicle Data To Stay Ahead In The Commercial Van Market

A 9-meter-long (30-foot) screen at Ford Motor Company’s UK headquarters in Dunton, east of London, displays the company’s efforts to use reams of data generated by its vans and trucks, from engines to oil filters or brake pads, to draw in more customers in the European and American commercial vehicle market.

This screen displayed real-time data from 114,000 vans in Britain that have so far been covered by Ford’s FORDLiive monthly subscription service during a recent visit by Reuters.

Ford workers concentrated on the 98.3% of vans that were in use, with about 8% of those needing repairs quickly or urgently, but they focused even more on the 1.7% of inoperable vehicles.

The automaker in the United States tracks 4,000 data points via modems installed in all commercial vehicles since 2019 – and can warn paying customers of engine problems and basics such as brake pad wear, low oil, or diesel additives that are inexpensive to maintain proactively but costly to fix if not addressed.

The automaker has linked all of its UK dealers to its system, allowing it to schedule repairs and prepare parts for vans before they arrive at a dealership.

Ford, which leads the commercial vehicle market in both Europe and the United States, launched the system in 2021.

According to Hans Schep, European head of Ford Pro, the company’s commercial vehicle business, the company is already on track to meet long-term goals of increasing vehicle “up time” by up to 60%.

According to Ford, downtime when a van is not in use costs an average of 600 pounds ($724) per day per van.

“This has already been a major game-changer,” Schep said.

Following a successful test run in the United Kingdom, Ford is now launching the FORDLiive service in mainland Europe and the United States. The company has prioritized its profitable Ford Pro business in Europe over lower-margin mass-market passenger cars.

Ford recently announced job cuts in engineering in Europe, but it is still looking for software experts for its data services.

For commercial vehicle manufacturers, data is a huge battleground, and competition will only heat up with electric models, which are essentially computers on wheels.

Data is being used to show where vans are, how much fuel they consume, how drivers use or misuse them, whether they can skip an oil change, and, most importantly, how to avoid downtime.

There is also an ongoing struggle in the European Union between insurers, leasing companies, and car repair shops and carmakers over access to connected car data and the vast potential revenue it could generate.

“We plan to grow our leadership position,” said Ted Cannis, chief executive of Ford Pro. “We are going to have many, many more markets that we were not even previously in.”

Electric vans provide far more data points for Ford and its competitors to work with, such as tracking how much range they have remaining and providing simple, all-in-one charging solutions.

According to Ford’s Schep, providing that data is critical for van fleets because 60% of the automaker’s corporate customers “are really worried about the journey to electric.”

DHL Express, part of the Deutsche Post DHL Group, has 270 electric Ford E Transit vans in the UK, with firm orders for 120 more, and has signed up for FORDLiive.

Aside from monitoring the batteries in those vans, Fleet Director Richard Crook wants to use Ford’s predictive maintenance capabilities.

“We need to get ahead of things and plan maintenance schedules because the vehicle is actually telling you ‘I have a problem,'” Crook said.

General Motors Co, Ford’s rival, has also launched telematics services such as “in-vehicle coaching,” in which a voice dubbed “Karen in the vehicle” coaches drivers against excessive braking, speeding, or other bad habits.

According to Michelle Calloway, director of OnStar Business Solutions at GM, “Karen” reduced fuel consumption by 30% in one customer’s fleet in 30 days.

“Those are impactful savings scaled across a large fleet,” Calloway said.

Beginning with 2024 models, GM will offer a variety of OnStar data services for free to fleet vehicles. According to Ed Peper, who oversees GM’s fleet sales, once customers try those services, they are more likely to pay for more.

Iveco Group NV, an Italian truck, van, and bus manufacturer, has around 150,000 connected vehicles that use telematics services and has seen a 30% increase in uptime as well as a “single-digit percent” drop in warranty costs so far, according to chief technology officer Marco Liccardo.

Subscription services, according to Liccardo, will generate 40% to 50% of commercial vehicle makers’ profits by 2030 and will help franchise dealers survive the shift to electric vehicles with fewer parts to service.

“Data will be the oxygen to do that,” Liccardo said.

(Adapted from


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