Are automakers finally catering to aftermarket tech upgrades?

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.”

Continue reading for more information.

Why It Matters

Ford Debuts Backward-Compatible Connectivity for Older Vehicles
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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.

Ford Debuts Backward-Compatible Connectivity for Older Vehicles High Resolution Exterior
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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.

Press Release

Millions of current Ford customers stand to benefit from Ford SmartLink, a technology that enables connectivity features normally only available on new modem-equipped vehicles. Using a simple device that plugs into the OBD II port below the steering wheel, Ford SmartLink will give customers who own 2010 – 2016 model year Ford and Lincoln vehicles that are not equipped with a modem access to:

Smartphone-based remote start, lock and unlock.
4G Wi-Fi hotspot capable of accepting up to eight devices.
Vehicle health and security alerts.
Vehicle location assistance.

“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.”

Ford Debuts Backward-Compatible Connectivity for Older Vehicles High Resolution Exterior
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SmartLink can be obtained at Ford and Lincoln dealerships starting this summer.

With more than two years of research and development invested, the Ford SmartLink team of engineers, in collaboration with Delphi Automotive and Verizon Telematics, have ensured the technology will work seamlessly with Ford and Lincoln vehicles.

“From security to performance, we’ve conducted extensive testing and made a number of improvements to ensure Ford SmartLink enhances the customer experience for our owners,” said Raj Nair, executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer.

Ford Debuts Backward-Compatible Connectivity for Older Vehicles High Resolution Exterior
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“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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