Ford Debuts Backward-Compatible Connectivity for Older Vehicles
Are automakers finally catering to aftermarket tech upgrades?by Mark McNabb, on
Ford announced a new device that allows owners of 2010 through 2016 Ford and Lincoln products to retrofit non-connected vehicles with features like remote start, lock and unlock, Wi-Fi hotspot, vehicle heath and status reports, and location alerts. It’s called Ford SmartLink and it works by connecting to the vehicle’s OBD II plug and a cellular service. It gives owners the ability to control a variety of vehicle functions through a companion smartphone app and online website.
“Ford SmartLink will surprise and delight owners of recent model-year vehicles by adding some of today’s most popular connectivity features” said Stephen Odell, executive vice president, Global Marketing, Sales and Service. “Offering it through our dealerships is another way to keep us connected with our customers and earn their loyalty.”
Besides locking and unlocking the vehicle from a smartphone, SmartLink also produces a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight devices. The system works through the Verizon network and will likely be an addable device on any Verizon service plan. SmartLink has been in development for more than two years, with Ford collaborating with both Verizon Telematics and Delphi Automotive.
As for security, Ford says it has conducted extensive testing to ensure no issues will arise from having a wirelessly accessible vehicle. Of course, Ford isn’t the only company to develop smartphone apps that control various devices connected to the Internet of Things. From garage door openers and HVAC system, to door locks and refrigerators – the IOT is growing larger every day.
As for Ford, it could potentially use SmartLink to help sell pre-owned vehicles to customers riding the fence between a good deal and a well-equipped vehicle. The same benefits are true for customers who hang onto vehicles longer, yet still desire the modern features found on newer, and often times more expensive vehicles.
Raj Nair, Ford’s executive vice president of global product development and chief technical officer, said, “We are thrilled to offer this level of convenience and connectivity to our existing customers, extending the value of their vehicles and giving them just one more reason to love their Ford and Lincoln vehicles.”
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Why It Matters
There are some that might suspect companies design a certain level of planned obsolescence within their products, it’s nice to see Ford taking a massive leap toward catering to older, less well-equipped vehicles. While this might cannibalize a minutely small percentage of new-vehicle sales, it’s bound to make people more interested in purchasing a Ford – even if it’s a few years old. For current owners of older cars, SUVS, and trucks, they can perhaps extend the life of their vehicle purchase thanks to the SmartLink device. Ford just hopes they’ll return to the same Ford dealership to buy a new car – the same place where they bought the SmartLink system.
It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out for both Ford and the automotive industry as a whole. Will other automakers begin catering to older vehicles? Will infotainment systems continually get updates like Tesla does with its vehicles? Will the quick obsolesces of newer vehicles be slowed down by the backwards-compatibility of updated software and new technologies? I’m definitely hoping so.