NEW YORK — Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday that it would offer free rides for all of its customers who take the first step toward a full ride with a car they own, in a move aimed at encouraging more people to buy their own cars.

The move by Ford is the latest in a series of moves to encourage more people in the United States to buy and own a vehicle.

More than half of U.S. households own a car, according to research by

Many people in many parts of the world are finding it difficult to afford a car.

“Our customers who own their own vehicles are more likely to drive more than any other customers,” Ford spokesman Brad Fuhrmann said in a statement.

Ford said it will give its customers a free ride to get them to the nearest Ford dealership where they can get a vehicle, where they will get their rental or lease agreement, and then the ride will be paid for.

It is a welcome change, said Richard M. Munk, director of Ford’s consumer insights.

In the United Kingdom, a carpooling service is also offering free rides to all its customers.

On the other hand, many U.K. customers are concerned that a full-time car salesman who makes money driving a rental vehicle is too busy to take care of their cars, he said.

Munk said Ford’s move was meant to encourage car ownership in the U.k., where ownership is falling behind that in other developed countries.

Last month, Ford launched its new “Ford Focus” model that combines an electric-powered hybrid and gasoline engine, an effort to counter rising prices in the auto industry.