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Ford partners with Salesforce to expand software business

By Joseph White

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co said Tuesday it plans to launch a new subscription software service aimed at small businesses, in collaboration with enterprise software company Salesforce.com Inc.

The software service, called VIIZR, will be offered starting next year by the automaker's Ford Pro commercial vehicle and services unit. Based on Salesforce technology, the system will digitize paperwork for contractors, repair technicians and other trades people, and start at $39 per month per user, Ford said.

VIIZR customers don't have to drive Ford vehicles, but the target small-business market overlaps with a key market for Ford trucks and commercial vans.

Ford, like rival automakers, is working to build sources of steadily recurring subscription revenue to supplement revenue from vehicle sales that can get hit by economic downturns or disruptions like the recent shortages of semiconductors.

Salesforce and other software-as-a-service companies tend to command higher stock valuations than manufacturers. Salesforce has a market capitalization of nearly $253 billion, compared to $76 billion for Ford.

Ford said it will offer businesses free, trial use of the VIIZR system ahead of the launch in the first half of 2022.

(Reporting By Joe White; Editing by Nick Zieminski)