This morning Ford announced it would expand its SYNC hands-free technology to all of its models and lower the price by $100. This isn’t shocking and is something I wrote about a few months ago here. My gripe with Ford wasn’t the price of SYNC, but instead was the concept of taking a potential life-saving technology and whoring it out as part of a pricing strategy.
Automakers, structures vehicle options to induce buyers into higher priced “premium” trims. Much like the cable TV providers won’t allow you to pick ABC, HBO and CNN as channels you’d like to view and pay accordingly. Instead you are required to pay the premium and be stuck with a higher cost than what you originally wanted. I have no problem with product pricing strategies when it comes options like, the style of wheel, vehicle colors or comfort options like heated seats. I do have a problem when this profit model is applied to safety options or at least options touted by the manufacture as safety options (available to those willing to fork over the extra cash).
A few months ago I purchased a new 2011 Mustang GT. Had I wanted SYNC (which I did) it would have cost me another $4,000 and that is without any navigation option. Sounds expensive for what is basically an advanced Bluetooth system, right? That’s because SYNC is only available in the premium trim Mustang. The cost to go from the base model to the premium model is $4,000. I would have happily paid Ford had SYNC been an option on my $30,000 vehicle in its lowly base trim. After all, according to Ford, SYNC technology could have made operating my vehicle safer. Why would Ford NOT want to afford me, and every other buyer, that option?
I wanted to expand on two quotes from Ford’s press release. The full press release can be found here or neatly regurgitated on any automotive site in 150 words of hard-hitting journalism (sarcasm).
“Making hands-free technology more affordable and available comes on the heels of Ford becoming the first automaker to announce its support for a nationwide ban on the use of hand-held mobile devices while driving”
“Ford became the first automaker to openly support the Safe Drivers Act of 2011, legislation for a nationwide ban on the use of hand-held mobile devices while driving”
According to the statement above it seems it was the legislative action, not a concern for public safety, that encouraged Ford to broaden the accessibility of its SYNC technology. Or perhaps the public’s excitement around distracted driving seemed like a good media opportunity?? Either way, had Ford been fully committed to making all of their vehicles as safe as possible, SYNC would have been at least an option in every vehicle from day one. I don’t mean to infer that Ford, or any other automakers, that executes a similar pricing strategies don’t care about the safety passengers. I’m only pointing out that in some cases automakers have to and/or choose to put profitability before safety.
I applaud Ford for their effort in vehicle safety; yet a part of me believes this should have happened years ago when SYNC was first introduced.