Ford and Microsoft's little voice control in-car connectivity project seems to be doing pretty well for itself, judging by the latest milestone it has passed. Sync has just been announced to have crossed the three million mark when counting the cars it's installed in, with recent data suggesting takeup for the $395 optional extra is growing. Nearly 80 percent of purchases of current 2011 Ford models include Sync, while over 80 percent of those already using it say they'd recommend the service to others. The latter number has improved by a robust 5 percentage points over last year, so clearly something's being done right here, but we're more interested in finding out what alternatives the other car and electronics makers will come up with during this year's CES. Rest assured, we'll explore them all.
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FORD SYNC NOW IN 3 MILLION VEHICLES; CUSTOMER SATISFACTION, USE OF VOICE CONTROL ON RISE

• Ford SYNC®, the voice-activated in-car connectivity system is now installed in more than 3 million Ford Motor Company vehicles, since first introduced in late 2007

• Latest internal research shows that more than 80 percent of SYNC owners are likely to recommend the system to others, a 5 percentage point increase over last year's research

• More SYNC users also rely on its voice recognition system, with nearly 70 percent usage rate while driving – more than a 5 percentage point increase over previous year

• SYNC was introduced in 2007 and still maintains its introductory price as a $395 option for nearly all new-model Ford vehicles; SYNC is also standard equipment on Lincoln models


DEARBORN, Mich., Jan. 3, 2011 – Ford is ringing in the new year with a noteworthy milestone, by installing the industry-leading Ford SYNC® in-car connectivity system on its 3 millionth vehicle in North America.

"Ford SYNC is clearly making a difference in our customer experience," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president of U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. "Not only is it proving to differentiate our products from the competition, SYNC is becoming a key point of satisfaction."

Ford SYNC was first available for the 2008 Ford Focus, with an option price of $395, in the fall of 2007 and quickly migrated across Ford's product lines. Today, SYNC is available on all Ford and Lincoln products, except those that are largely commercial or fleet use. The option price remains at $395 for most vehicles, but now includes several new standard features such as 911 Assist, Vehicle Health Report, and SYNC Services.

Customers buying Ford vehicles are treating SYNC as a must-have technology, purchasing the system, when available, nearly 80 percent of the time on current 2011 models – up about 4 percentage points compared to 2010 models. SYNC is standard across the Lincoln lineup.

And a larger number of these customers are speaking out about how much they like the system, with recent internal research indicating that more than 80 percent of SYNC users are likely to recommend the system to others, representing a 5 percentage point increase over the previous year's data.

Undeniably, the strong purchase power and customer satisfaction ratings of SYNC are bolstered by its industry-leading voice recognition system, a feature that is taking a stronghold in terms of what people want when it comes to in-car connectivity systems. In the internal research, nearly 70 percent of SYNC owners reported that they use the SYNC voice controls while driving – a 5-plus percentage point increase.

"When we introduced SYNC, we were committed to making voice recognition a highly useful tool for the driver, and this research confirms we're on track," said Jim Buczkowski, a Henry Ford Technical Fellow and director of Ford Electronics and Electrical Systems Engineering, Research and Advanced Engineering. "Ford remains committed to being the company that will continue to raise the bar on voice recognition as the primary user interface – giving customers the connectivity they want while helping them keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel."

According to the 2010 study "Staying Connected on the Go: A Look at In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Systems" conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association, 55 percent of the fast-growing population of smartphone owners prefer voice commands as their primary in-car user interface.

With the introduction of MyFord Touch™ in 2010, Ford made the SYNC voice recognition system even faster, friendlier and easier to use with more direct, first level commands, quicker and easier entry and search and more recognized aliases. The improvements were designed to help drivers accomplish tasks hands-free using more natural speech patterns and fewer commands, enabling them to focus on the task of driving.