Ford Dips Toe Into London Car-Sharing Market With GoDrive

A car drives through a large puddle left after heavy rain in central London, England, on July 8, 2012.

Photographer: Andrew Cowie/AFP/GettyImages

Ford Motor Co. will start offering Londoners a network of cars to share, rather than buy, in an effort to tap the growing market for on-demand driving.

The automaker’s GoDrive offers one-way rides with guaranteed parking. Ford, the U.K.’s best-selling car brand last year, said Tuesday it’s expanding beyond a pilot phase to 50 vehicles in 20 London locations.

“People are becoming increasingly open to new means of mobility,” Ken Washington, vice president of research and advanced engineering, said in a statement. “Car sharing is proving to be an appealing model.”

Manufacturers including BMW AG and Daimler AG have been building city-based sharing programs that offer rentals by the minute for drivers who want to drive a car occasionally without owning one. Their numbers are growing: Car-sharing may be as much as a 5.6 billion euros ($6.1 billion) a year industry by 2020, according to a December study by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants GmbH.

The U.K. has been a tough market, however. Daimler’s Car2Go service pulled out of the country because of a lack of demand last year. Part of Ford’s GoDrive project, which will be free for the first 2,000 customers, involves gathering data on Londoners’ driving and travel patterns.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based company is also experimenting with car sharing programs in Germany, India and the U.S.