Electronics and software enable upwards of 80% of the innovative features that attract car buyers, according to Jim Buczkowski, Ford’s global director for electrical and electronics systems. Vehicles equipped with Ford’s Sync entertainment and communications system, for example, turn twice as fast on dealer lots as vehicles without the feature, and Buczkowski says that exposure to Sync doubles a prospect’s inclination to consider buying a Ford.
Most automotive innovations enter at the luxury end of the market and migrate downward as volumes increase and cost allows, but Ford launched Sync on the Focus. That made sense because the system’s voice-activated music selection feature was most likely to appeal to younger buyers with smaller budgets. It also reflects Ford’s strategy of “democratizing” technology. “So many of these (automotive electronics) technologies are great technologies, and everybody wants them – not just those who are buying premium vehicles,” Buczkowski says.
He’s referring to features like a blind spot information with cross traffic alert (good for backing out of mall parking spaces), adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning, automatic park assist, electric power steering assist, rear-view camera, automatic high beam, and rain-sensing wipers. Some if not most of those features are more common on European or high-end Asian vehicles, and Buczkowski contends that Ford’s Taurus is equipped to compete favorably against costlier vehicles outside of its segment.
EcoBoost, which improves fuel efficiency, recently received a “Breakthrough” award from Popular Mechanics magazine and, perhaps taking its cue from the Beach Boys song, Ford’s MyKey lets parents of young drivers set limits on vehicle speed and radio volume – so no more cruising as fast with the radio blasting.
Quality is a top consideration for car buyers, but Buczkowski says Ford is now competitive with the best on a quality scale. Its vehicles have earned “Top Safety Pick” ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Customers who concur that Ford vehicles’ quality is sufficient can begin to look at features related to safety and efficiency.
Ford’s three pillars of technology development are green, safe, and smart. “When we add electronic features we have to do so as efficiently as possible, using battery management systems to manage loads,” Buczkowski notes. “Our power generation system must be optimized for best performance and best use, eliminating waste.”