SYNC or Swim for Ford

Recalling 490,000 minivans and SUVs is not going to look good on its resume, but Ford (NYSE: F  ) had better news for investors earlier this week when it revealed that there are now 4 million cars on the road with the auto giant's SYNC system.

Ford has been on the cutting edge lately with its voice-controlled dashboard technology, giving Bluetooth-enabled smartphone owners access to audio entertainment, timely information, and functional features that just weren't available a couple of years ago. Some of the safety and navigational features provided by SYNC aren't as seamless as what General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) has going on with OnStar, but at least it's free of monthly charges.

This has obviously been a big week for car tech. The timing of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and the North American International Auto Show in Detroit finds automakers trying to raise the bar.

Pandora (NYSE: P  ) has certainly had its dance card punched, kicking off the week by revealing that Acura and Kia will be rolling out new model cars with streaming access to Pandora. There are now 16 automotive brands that either have radios that can access Pandora or will have them soon.

Ford hopped on Pandora early, allowing SYNC owners access to the leading streaming service through the free SYNC AppLink download.

However, now that everyone else has caught up to Ford, what will it do next?

Sure, Ford already raised the bar on SYNC with MyFord Touch. The state-of-the-art infotainment platform had a rocky debut, but that's nothing that a software update can't fix.

One way to make sure that it stays ahead of pack is to be the first car maker to begin installing Sirius XM Radio's (Nasdaq: SIRI  ) Sirius XM 2.0. Sirius XM CEO Mel Karmazin revealed late last year that one auto manufacturer will begin rolling with the enhanced satellite receivers in 2012, and the rest should follow in 2013.

Another thing that Ford may want to do is take a page out of Apple's playbook and begin inviting SYNC owners down to the showroom for hands-on tutorials and software upgrades. I'm driving one of the four million Fords with SYNC, and I know that I'm not even close to scratching the surface of what it can do. If Apple can create customer loyalty by giving them free how-to clinics at its stores, why not Ford?

Get moving, Ford. Don't you see everybody else's headlights getting bigger in the rearview mirror?

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Ford. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford Motor and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, General Motors, and Ford Motor. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic long position in Ford Motor. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (5)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2012, at 11:01 AM, doubting wrote:

    Rick,

    Pandora getting into auto makes no sense. How are they going to monetize their expense? Who will read commercials in the auto? Or they want voice commercials? How is this different from terrestrial radio? I would say it is even worse because now you have to mess with Pandora set ups. Are we talking about a suicidal campaign? Or do we assume that advertisers are so clueless that would dole out their ad dollars to Pandora for having access to suicidal drivers? Let us get serious and stop this nonsense.

    Someone needs to explain to readers that pandoras exist off PRs rather than off real income. They can rig their connectivity on Mount Everest and advertise there with just as much success.

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2012, at 11:17 AM, mbl1234 wrote:

    Pandora is a perfect addition to regular radio in cars. Want news/traffic/info? Regular radio. Want to hear the type of music you like? Pandora. All without the fees and lousy customer service that you get with sattelite radio. Win/win. I'll be looking for Pandora in my next car.

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2012, at 11:19 AM, scooterge558 wrote:

    Rick,

    It may have more to do with your Ford dealer than Ford itself, with regards to the sync tutorials. My Ford dealer, which I purchased my 2011 Ford Fusion from has a sync specialist on-staff to take appointments from Ford owners with sync questions. Not really a how-to clinic that say is open to everyone, but more of a one on one with the person, to answer your questions show you how to use it, etc.

    May want to check with other local dealers in your area if your dealer doesn't offer such a service.

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2012, at 11:29 AM, Brent2223 wrote:

    I can't wait until we have 10,000 apps for the dashboard - perhaps then they can make the front window a huge touchscreen, cause drivers aren't going to be watching the road anyways! Legislation has been moving to get ride of the distractions for drivers, so this trend is puzzling. I know, hands free, voice activited, yada yada yada, that still doesn't mean it's safe. Accidents are mostly caused by distracted minds, not distracted hands.

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