Ford’s Sync 3 debut, vehicle launches are out of sync
The 2015 Ford Edge has been on sale for only a month, but it’s already about to be out-of-date.
Ford Motor Co. plans to start rolling out Sync 3, its replacement for the MyFord Touch infotainment system, starting this summer. The Edge and many other nameplates will get Sync 3 for the 2016 model year, according to a product guide Ford recently distributed to fleet customers, with the rest of the lineup making the switch by the end of next year.
In the meantime, though, Ford dealers are in the position of selling cars and trucks with the old system, which can’t be swapped out later on. Shoppers who hold off on buying an Edge, Mustang or Escape just until the 2016s arrive get Sync 3, likely paying the same price they would now.
“It’s going to be a big change that makes the car considerably less frustrating,” said Tom Mutchler, a senior automotive engineer with Consumer Reports, which has long criticized MyFord Touch. “If more consumers knew the improvement that Sync 3 was going to provide, they would wait a few months.”
It’s an awkward situation sure to become more common as automakers rush to pack their instrument panels full of the latest technology. Waiting to make updates at the next natural break in a product’s life cycle risks losing sales to competitors, but adding features as soon as possible means existing vehicles become dated faster.
Spiffs not likely
While automakers have always had to sell down outgoing generations of vehicles, they typically do so by throwing cash on the hood.
But Ford isn’t likely to use incentives on an otherwise freshly updated vehicle as it phases out MyFord Touch because most consumers don’t pay nearly as much attention to in-car technology as they do to the newest iPhone or tablet, even though they’ll likely own a vehicle much longer.
“Other than the steering wheel, it’s what you interact with the most. It’s a huge part of the experience of the vehicle,” said Eric Lyman, vice president of industry insights for ALG, which calculates vehicles’ residual values. “But it’s not something that moves the needle or defines the valuation.”
“If more consumers knew the improvement that Sync 3 was going to provide, they would wait a few months.”Tom Mutchler
Lyman said he doesn’t expect Ford’s 2016 vehicles with Sync 3 to have better residual values than the 2015s unless there were other changes to the styling or design.
Odell: Issues are behind us.
Ford’s global sales and marketing chief, Stephen Odell, said MyFord Touch has improved dramatically since glitches and usability complaints caused Ford’s quality scores to plummet. He said dealers shouldn’t have difficulty selling consumers on MyFord Touch-equipped vehicles even with Sync 3 on the way. Sales of MyFord Touch have surpassed 10 million since its introduction on the 2011 Edge.
“The volume that we’ve sold tells you that people see far more benefits than issues,” Odell said in an interview. “The very early days of people having issues are very far behind us.”
He said he hasn’t seen any data showing that consumers are delaying purchases to wait for Sync 3.
Charles Hodgkinson, an entrepreneur from Toronto who owns a 2013 Lincoln MKT, disagrees. He was excited when Ford announced Sync 3 but frustrated to learn that he’d have to buy a new vehicle to upgrade from MyFord Touch.
“It doesn’t work well. The voice activation part doesn’t work well; the interface doesn’t work well,” he said. “In this day and age, it’s disappointing that the system is so poor.”
Several years down the road, the differences between MyFord Touch and Sync 3 could grow more noticeable if the older system no longer works with the latest smartphones or apps. Ford spokesman Alan Hall said MyFord Touch is covered by a 5-year warranty and software upgrades will continue to be released for it as well as for Sync 3. It’s possible that technological limitations could limit compatibility with some future devices, just as the first-generation Apple iPhone doesn’t work with many current apps.
Ford says it is trying to minimize disappointment by rolling out Sync 3 faster than earlier systems.
“There will be a level of support; it’s just not defined yet,” Hall said.
Ford is working to minimize any disappointment, he said, by rolling out Sync 3 much faster than MyFord Touch or the original Ford Sync spread across the lineup, without waiting for the vehicles to be refreshed.
Tim Paulus, owner of the Ford Store Morgan Hill in California’s Silicon Valley, said he doesn’t foresee buyers shunning the MyFord Touch-equipped vehicles, even in a few years when the 2015 and 2016 models would be next to each other on a used-car lot.
“Typically those owners are in a much older car, so even the MyFord Touch that’s out there is still going to be significantly better than what they’ve had,” said Paulus, whose store has worked at length with customers to help them understand MyFord Touch. “If we were having issues still, that would be a different story. But now, MyFord Touch is very competitive with everything that’s out there.”
Mutchler, of Consumer Reports, said his publication is in the process of buying an Edge for its testing and would rather get one with Sync 3 but can’t wait for the 2016. Other buyers who need a vehicle now — because their lease is ending or their family has grown, for instance — also will miss out.
“We wish it came out of the box with Sync 3,” he said, “rather than having this funny orphan of a couple of months, probably, with MyFord Touch.”
by Nick Bunkley