It’s no secret that American car companies were in the direst of straits just a couple years back. The economy had careened off of a cliff, decades-old pensions stifled the industry’s growth, and compared to stylish, alternative-fuel imports, the American vehicles seemed homely and downright desperate. American car companies needed some cosmetic (and reconstructive) surgery. Trying to reinvent itself and restore its battered image, Ford Motor Company focused on building the car for the next century.
Part of Ford’s rebranding experiment entails reducing the fleet of autos and marketing them as “hip.” Describing this shift, Ford CEO Alan Mulally comes off as earnest and playfully out of touch, like an octogenarian wearing baggy pants and listening to hip hop. “I mean, we had 97 of these, for God’s sake!” Mulally told Fast Company, pointing at a list of old models. “How you gonna make ’em all cool? You gonna come in at 8 a.m. and say, ‘From 8 until noon, I’m gonna make No. 64 cool? And then I’ll make No. 17 cool after lunch?’ It was ridiculous!” But Mulally didn’t need to look too far past his peers, passersby, and pop culture to know what new devices are the epitome of sophisticated cool: smartphones.
Sync, digital communications software already installed in some Ford models, is the link between automobiles and Androids. The software is programmed to keep you connected during your commute. “Ford is transforming the car into a powerful smartphone,” writes Fast Company’s Paul Hochman, “one that lets you carry your digital world along with you and then customize it.” So far, Sync allows you to make phone calls without taking your hands off the wheel (or wearing a dopey-looking Bluetooth device, for that matter), listen to Pandora radio or audio news stories, and navigate with driving directions sent from another computer. Ford autos are even equipped to read your Twitter feed to you. Just think: no matter how awful traffic is, you’ll know what non-events currently have Kanye West in a tizzy.
The other auto makers have caught on, and Kia, Audi, and Mercedes are all working on their own syncing technology. “[Ford] obviously have a big lead,” Thilo Koslowski, auto analyst at Gartner, told Fast Company. “But sometimes being a first mover doesn’t pay off. Think of Apple. There were plenty of MP3 players in the market before it introduced the iPod. For Ford, the burden it has put on itself is to keep innovating.”
Source: Fast Company