Ford officially launches “Sync” today. 
 
Sync is the wireless, voice operated control system developed jointly with Microsoft that will permit making cellular telephone calls, text messaging, and making digital music selections by voice, hands-free. It launches in the new Focus, but will be in all new Ford made vehicles by 2010.
 
This isn’t merely a convenience item.
 
It’s primary aim is to change Ford’s image, giving it a more sophisticated and tech-savy reputation with potential buyers. Ford sees it as doing for its brands what OnStar did for GM brands: creating an advantage for the brand that employs new technologies to create a distinct identity.
 
To that end, Ford will be promoting Sync heavily, and independently of the vehicles in which it is installed. It may even portray Sync as part of “Ford Signature Technologies.” Ford’s group vice-president for global product development told he Detroit Free Press that “[d]eveloping marketing plans around the new technologies is very important."
 
More technological innovations are in the pipeline, but Ford is being very careful not to revealing what they are working on prematurely. It is known, however, that Ford will be using the Sony brand for audio systems in Ford and Mercury models, with THX being used in Lincolns, and introducing new lighting features in vehicle interiors. These, however, are steps that merely maintain pace with developments being marketed by other automakers. General Motors, for example, made soft and friendly interior lighting seeming to glow from the instrument panel and doors a priority. Mercedes-Benz started the trend toward more sophisticated lighting with the current model of the S Class.
 
On technology that’s not catch-up, however, deals with that door lock keypad Ford has featured an option for years. In an application under development, the keypad becomes indistinguishable from the vehicle’s paint when the pad isn’t being used.
 
The decision to use technology as a brand-image tool at Ford dates back five years and is overtly copies from the OnStar model. OnStar took about five years from its introduction in 1997 to really catch-on with consumers, but has since become a sought-after feature that has given GM both a sales advantage and a 100% sales recognition rate. Ford aims for similar advantages with its new technologies.
 
Whether it works or not – and even synch is not really a new technology, but simply Ford’s version of something that other automakers have already offered, albeit in more limited applications – it does show that Ford is actually trying to come up with innovative sales techniques. At the very least, that signals a positive change in attitude in Dearborn.

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