January has been huge for Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), along with many other automakers, as the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit featured concept vehicles and fresh designs for all the media to see and drool over. Ford arguably stole the show with the surprise debut of its 2017 GT super car before showing off two more performance-oriented vehicles, the F-150 Raptor and Shelby Mustang GT350R.
With those massive headlines taking over the Internet, there were also a couple of topics that were completely overshadowed that give investors and Ford drivers a hint of what's to come in terms of future technology.
Ford SYNC AppLink 3.0
Let's think back to 2010, when Ford debuted its MyFord Touch system, and the company ranked No. 5 overall on J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study (IQS) of automotive brands -- heck, Ford was even the top ranked mass-market brand. Then, as its MyFord Touch system got into the hands of users, it quickly became maligned by consumers across the globe, sending Ford's ranking in J.D. Power's IQS plummeting to No. 23 a year later.
Consumer Reports wasn't afraid to tell carbuyers the harsh truth, either: "We wouldn't recommend dealing with the frustrations of MyFord Touch on a daily basis even to an adversary."
Ford's infotainment system has been one of the biggest complaints about its vehicles' technology, and the Dearborn automaker recognized this. Just a couple of weeks ago, Ford announced it would drop the MyFord Touch name and that it had redesigned its in-car infotainment system thoroughly. It then named it SYNC 3, which will be available on full Ford and Lincoln lineups by the end of next year.
Taking it one step further, to offer consumers an even better in-car product, Ford announced recently its intentions to roll out Ford SYNC AppLink 3.0 next year. Among many things, it will give consumers the ability to access their favorite compatible navigation app on in-vehicle touch screens, which is similar to how many drivers accomplish the task via smartphones.
Digging into the details, Ford's next version of the AppLink will have an open-source SmartDeviceLink initiative. The new AppLink will essentially improve the in-car experience by better integrating applications used on smartphones to their car infotainment screens. Thus, drivers can more easily and thoroughly control all the content they love from all aspects of their lives.
Furthermore, Ford is working with global consumer Internet service Alibaba to improve its map navigation and music services in its vehicle systems. The open-source collaboration will help improve the quantity and quality of applications usable on Ford's upcoming infotainment systems.
How important is it, really?
While this headline was overshadowed by other major headlines this month, leading technology and in-car infotainment systems have become critical for attracting younger buyers – which is key to securing future sales in a loyal and highly competitive automotive industry. If the improvements that Ford has focused on, with regards to its in-car infotainment technology, help reverse horribly negative comments in Consumer Reports, as well as plunging ratings in J.D. Power Initial Quality Studies, it will go a long way convincing consumers to give Ford vehicles another chance, and help improve the automaker's market share in the near term.
That is even more true as Ford rolled out three times more new vehicle designs last year in North America than it did in 2013, which should also further fuel market-share gains in 2015. Even a fraction of a percent of market share gains can lead to significant top- and bottom-line improvements. Ford investors should feel confident as the automaker continues to improve all aspects of its vehicles -- especially technology -- in 2015 and beyond.