In the opening keynote address at the SAE Convergence conference taking place this week in Detroit, Derrick Kuzak, group VP for global product development, noted the company's increasing sales and market share comes in good part from setting itself apart with technology.
Ford claims it "has more technology than its competitors" and that the Taurus is the most "technologically advanced" U.S. car. (Here is my review of the car and its technology after test driving it when it was introduced.*)
Company strategy aims to "engage" customers who particularly value connected technology. This group includes younger drivers, so Ford introduces advanced connectivity features into its lower priced models that such buyers can afford (such as the new Fiesta subcompact). Its MyFord Touch connectivity uses voice and steering wheel controls and will debut soon in the latest Ford Focus models.
Ford says its current Sync connected technology spiked interest in three times as many potential customers to consider buying a Ford—and overall tech content is driving up revenue/vehicle.
Kuzak noted other technologies having an impact on product acceptance include being "green" for good mileage, cleaner emissions, and use of renewable, recyclable materials. Infotainment capabilities in a vehicle can impart the sense of a "second home" on wheels, which some may value. Safety systems are evaluated indirectly when customers check various safety ratings of vehicles, he added. Kuzak cited specific safety/security systems introduced by Ford as "breakout" technologies—including MyKey to regulate young driver behavior; inflatable rear seat belts; and curve control stability functions being debuted on the 2011 Explorer.
And a vital part of deploying technology for Ford has been its collaboration with a multitude of partners. VP of one, Microsoft's John Fikany, told Convergence attendees that customers want a seamless, connected lifestyle. He mentioned the company's new Kinect technology for the Xbox 360 that uses sensors to detect body position and motion for playing games—but he sees other uses, including allowing buyers to "configure" a car, and then presenting that file to a dealer to build that specific vehicle for them.
*Ed Note: Since my original review of the SHO Taurus, I recently had a chance to spend a week driving the car. My original impressions were confirmed by a longer test. In nearly 500 miles of mostly Interstate travel, mileage numbers were around 24 mpg—just under the EPA highway value of 25 mpg.
The radar-based adaptive cruise control performed as expected, and even seemed to slow the car earlier than I anticipated (a welcome behavior) when it detected an all-lane traffic jam as we came out of a turn.
Finally, I asked my wife how she'd describe the car, "Classy, comfortable, and quiet," plus she valued the grab bars considering the way I sometimes drive.