By on January 6, 2010

After registering a 33% increase in sales for December 2009 (albeit with a rumored 35 percent fleet mix), Ford aren’t letting the grass grow under their feet. reports that GM and Ford are to announce the updated versions of their in-car communications systems. Ford announced first that their “Sync” system is turning more towards Apple for new applications, despite the system being developed with Microsoft. Naturally, Microsoft is free to develop Sync-like features for others car makers. Doug Vandagens, director of Ford’s Connected Services Solutions Organisation justified this move at a press conference by saying that many Apple iPhone customers are customising their phones with Apple, therefore, Ford had to follow that trend. A clear indication of Ford marketing to towards younger customers, with the Fiesta being pushed at young, trendy types. GM will have an announcement tonight about their updated GM OnStar.

Meanwhile, Chrysler doesn’t have a system of its own, however, Fiat does. Fiat also worked with Microsoft to develop the “Blue & Me” system. Now with the exclusivity between Ford and Microsoft over and Fiat now present in America (via Chrysler), Ford may have some more competition in the market. Jim Farley was cagey on the whole affair, “We have exclusivity in the sense that we started a long time ago,” Farley said,“We have a lot of resources invested in it, and no one else can say that. We also have exclusive use of the name, of course, and the relationship with Microsoft has gotten to be very fundamental. You don’t just wake up and duplicate all that.” Whilst these communication systems are great additions to one’s car, are they really necessary? Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Kia (for now), don’t have in car communication systems and they’re selling pretty well.

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4 Comments on “Detroit’s Tech Wars...”

  • avatar

    When you get down to brass tacks, Sync is only a branded name for a bluetooth and MP3 player integration system.  Toyota, Honda, and Nissan all have bluetooth and USB ports available in their cars, but what sets Sync apart is the level of polish and the ease of use.
    As a recent cell phone manufacturer recently asserted in their adds, your phone is one of the very few things that most people keep within an arms reach 24/7.   Most people have their cell in their person during the day, and on a table next to them at night.  As most cell phones are now also music players, navigation devices, and more, it was a great move by Ford to come up with a slick and easy way to integrate it into the car and market it so that people know about it and want it.
    Farley is very correct in that Sync now offers a lot more than just the connectivity however.  Features like 911 assist and Traffic, Directions, and More were developed by Ford and remain property of Ford as far as I know, and will not be featured on Microsoft Sync clones coming from Kia and others.  The 911 assist feature really gets the attention of safety conscious drivers, and the Traffic Directions and More gives you 90% of the capability of a traditional screen based navigation system without the $2000 option price.

    • 0 avatar

      Sync has a lot more going for it than ease of use and polish on generic BT/MP3 connectivity found in most high end vehicles.  The emphasis on the voice driven UI and the text to speech SMS capabilities are but two examples from the last generation and with the 2010 intros of Apps and WiFi integration, Sync is further differentiated from the typical offerings.  When you see consider Ford’s Sync based Works offering in trucks with RFID tagging and mobile PC functions the competitive comparison is even less valid.

    • 0 avatar

      TomH –
      I consider the voice driven UI part of the ‘ease of use’ and ‘polish’ category, but yeah, I suppose that it shouldn’t be overlooked, the voice recognition is hands down better than any other system out there.
      Regarding the Ford Work Solutions – those have nothing to do with Sync.  The Work Solutions computer is based off of a design from Magnetti Marelli, and can be optioned our with the features such as RFID tool tagging, fleet vehicle telematics tracking, the mobile internet options, a garmin based navigation system, and a nokia based bluetooth system.   Currently, if you opt for the Work Solutions in dash computer, you can’t get Sync, only the Nokia bluetooth.  Also, the Work Solutions computers are availible with different trims than the Sony Navigation combined with Sync and Sirius TraveLink.  On an F150 for example, you can get the Work Solutions setup with trim levels XLT and below, and the Sony/Sync/Sirius setup on trim levels FX2/FX4 and above.

  • avatar

    Today, the tech gadgets in cars are too expensive for some.  They are more luxury items.  They won’t be for long.  Long power windows, locks, and A/C, it will all be standard before long.  Branding the system is a plus as well.  The MS Sync system probably have good visibility.  It is easier to know that Ford has the Sync system than… what BT and MP3 player system does Toyota and Honda have?  Ford actually advertises theirs as well, which really helps.  I have seen Honda’s Nav system in the new Accord, it looks and works really well.  I think naming the system, providing a top notch integration and user interface like Ford has done will be great for them down the road.
    I think the next good thing that ford is doing with the ability to have in car wifi from a USB modem is great.  Using existing data plans from your phone to air card while on a trip or during the office car pool is a nice idea.  Will be good for Taxi/Livery service as well.  As technology outside the car increases, it will need to do the same in cars, and the branding will be important.

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