The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 5, 2013

Three different paths to infotainment taken by Detroit Three


“I think we’re in good shape with changes made to MyFord Touch,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas, said recently.

The system is on 80 percent of Ford vehicles, compared with competitors who offer sophisticated systems on less than half their lineup, Hinrichs said. The math means Ford will get more complaints, but he expects it to level off as the competition expands its use of similar technology.

“Our goal is to continue to be the leader in the technology,” Hinrichs said.

Sargent of J.D. Power agrees Ford took a chance in being first but that will pay off down the road as the automaker also was able to get the jump on working out bugs and addressing consumer concerns.

“We have cut our ‘things-gone-wrong’ by half,” said Raj Nair, Ford’s head of product development.

CHRYSLER: Chrysler is skirting similar criticism with its Uconnect system, which incorporates the best aspects of a number of other systems.

Uconnect is a hybrid of embedded cellular technology and subscription services as well as the ability to sync a smartphone. Uconnect also introduced a 3G broadband modem to make the vehicle an Internet hotspot that other computing devices can tap into.

A driver can choose to subscribe to a service, much like GM’s OnStar, and use the car’s built-in phone. Or a driver can choose to sync their own smartphone through the car’s infotainment system and use it to make calls and access music and the Internet.

“Some like the simplicity of not using (their own) phone. It works when the ignition is on. Others say their whole life is on their phone and they want to link it to their car,” said Marios Zenios, who heads Chrysler’s Uconnect team.

Zenios joined Chrysler in 2008 from Motorola, which pioneered the original flip cell phone that connected with a car’s GPS. When he arrived, Chrysler was working on a new system with a big screen and grappling with key decisions. Should the system be embedded or phone-based — in other words, OnStar or Sync in nature?

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