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Microsoft Steve Balmer gets pumped up about SYNC and his new Ford Fusion Hybrid, courtesy of Ford CEO Alan Mullaly, and in celebration of one million SYNC vehicles produced.  (Source: Autoblog)
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is thrilled to be getting his new Ford Fusion

In the realm of automotive sales, exclusive features often provide an important means of differentiating oneself from the competition.  GM has OnStar and Ford has its SYNC functionality, a hot feature which allows for the integration of mobile phones and portable media players with Ford vehicles among other things.  The feature was developed by software giant Microsoft in close collaboration with Ford, and is featured in many new Ford models, including the sleek and fuel efficient Ford Fusion hybrid.

The Ford and Microsoft partnership proved a match made in heaven and 80 percent of Ford's vehicles now feature the system.  An update is on the way as well which is set to add turn-by-turn uploadable directions and more to the SYNC interface. 

The system has been driving sales and has helped Ford likely be the only domestic automaker to avoid bankruptcy and government regulation.  As a special thank you to Microsoft, Ford delivered Microsoft CEO and Detroit native Steve Ballmer a pale blue 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid, the millionth vehicle produce with Sync onboard according to Autoblog.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally personally delivered the new car to Mr. Ballmer.  His purchase may have been largely a symbolic gesture, but the fun thing is Mr. Ballmer seemed genuinely excited.  Of course, this isn't entirely surprising -- the Fusion is a very well-designed vehicle, rated an impressive 41 mpg, with many users report much higher mileages thanks to the car's aggressive fuel-saving strategies.  Mr. Mulally pledged to "continue to innovate and expand the capability of SYNC by integrating even more new technologies that fit our customers' lifestyles."

Currently SYNC offers navigation and entertainment systems, and a feature called 911 Assist, which calls emergency services in the event of an accident (similar to GM's OnStar).

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RE: Will not buy it
By Lord 666 on 5/28/2009 3:45:36 PM , Rating: 5
Don't take you for a Zune guy.

Microsoft should have subsidized with Ford to include a Zune with every Sync vehicle purchased to increase market penetration.

RE: Will not buy it
By lightfoot on 5/28/2009 4:45:03 PM , Rating: 5
That would actually be very clever marketing. But unfortunately any time Microsoft increases value for the customer, they get hammered by the Gov for anti-competitive violations.

RE: Will not buy it
By mindless1 on 5/28/2009 7:35:49 PM , Rating: 1
That would actually be ignorant, there is no substantial increase in sales from sync nor a $200 PMP. A car is too much of an investment with too many other factors related to it being a car, to be distracted by things you can buy off the shelf later.

Remember, the thing American automakers should be striving to do now is LOWER costs, not raise them. Some of the posters here seem confused that GM must be doing bad but Ford isn't. Ford isn't in a good financial position either. Q1 '09 Net loss of $1.4B anyone?

RE: Will not buy it
By rudolphna on 5/28/2009 9:25:42 PM , Rating: 2
They aren't in immediate danger of bankruptcy are they? And by your logic, Honda and toyota are in poor financial shape too, I beleive Toyota lost more than ford did the past quarter, but I may be wrong. I know they lost a good deal of money. Also by your logic, car companies should be building bare bones stripped, cheap cars to make a bigger profit off them? Ok, that is what got chrysler into trouble. They sacrificed quality for price.. Also, people are more likely to buy something novel, and actually useful, like sync, than they would a simple boring car. Wouldn't you agree?

RE: Will not buy it
By mindless1 on 5/29/2009 1:13:27 AM , Rating: 2
Why would it have to be immediate? They're losing money, while it's possible some former GM buyers would switch to Ford, it's also likely they bought GM because they preferred GM, so now given a new choice many will go with the smaller import cars.

Yes, Honda and Toyota only appeared to do as well as they did by having the Japanese government implement a closed system, and devaluation of the yen. They had government subsidy all along but we balked at helping a giant corp from our own country.

Price the GM cars over $1000 less than they were and what do you want to bet they'd have sold more of them?

By my logic companies should not build junk cars, but yes they should look hard at what is really value added for the consumer. Remember that when it comes time to buy a new car, most people balk, some even dread the runaround a dealership will give them trying to sell add-ons.

It isn't so much true that they sacrificed much quality for price in recent years, moreso a little the financial burdon of having an older labor union with more retirees (Honda and Toyota have been around in the US for many years, but GM many many more), and moreso we saw two important factors coincide.

1) Gas prices suddenly shot up to record levels. That they subsided a lot does not restore confidence that it won't happen again.

2) Besides gas costs, the US recession has caused people to rethink whether they need a new car at all, and certainly whether it should be a big gas guzzler.

In these times people are not likely to buy something novel, they want the best value.

No I would not agree that the average car buyer places much value on sync. I would argue that most prospective car buyers wouldn't even know what it was, would have to be *told* that it's worth something as they wouldn't otherwise have any idea beyond something as simple as "maybe my kids can plug their iPod into it".

There are so so so many important factors about chosing and buying a car that anyone who wants a particular gadget will just seek it in the aftermarket unless the person happens to be fairly rich and is buying a high end luxury car where the price difference isn't much as it may come in a add-on package they otherwise wanted.

Come to think of it, is this how Ford bundled it too, were people really paying more for sync or did it comes with an upgraded electronics package that was likely more desirable in and of itself?

You're going in opposite directions with your argument, saying automakers were sacrificing quality for price and that's why people weren't buying, but then turning around and trying to suggest sync is fundamental to an automobile's quality enough that people won't care about the lower quality you suggested.

It may be true that Ford was managed a little better than GM but in the long run they are having problems that aren't so easily solved as throwing in a sync feature. People buy new cars when they want or need a car, if they just want more interconnectivity they'd just buy only what they need to achive that, especially in a recession.

RE: Will not buy it
By Lord 666 on 5/29/2009 9:20:21 AM , Rating: 3
Microsoft should have subsidized with Ford

Guess you didn't read what I actually wrote. It was public knowledge Microsoft sold Xbox360 consoles at a loss to gain market share. In my suggestion, Microsoft would work a deal with Ford to include a Zune with every Sync enabled car for a trivial cost... something like $25 or $50 per unit.

For the new Zunes coming out, it would actually lower Ford's cost since there will be a HD radio built into the Zune. Technology capabilities change much faster at the PMP level versus automotive. I've since cancelled my Sirius subscription with the radio sitting ununsed built-into in my VW. Sync just needs to have backwards and forwards compatibility for Zune and/or other USB enabled devices.

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay

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