Whether you’re a fan of Ford’s Sync in-dash infotainment system or not, you’ll have to admire this: Ford and Lincoln have sold five million Sync-equipped vehicles in the five years since the system first debuted on Ford Motor Company vehicles.
It’s a bit hard to believe, but it’s been seven years since Microsoft and Ford embarked on a journey to bring together in-dash infotainment and in-pocket devices like phones and digital media players. The fruit of that labor was Sync, which made its on-stage debut at the International Consumer Electronics Show in January 2007. As a sign of the times, presenter (and CEO) Alan Mulally used a Palm Treo smartphone, Apple iPod, Motorola Razr flip-phone, and Microsoft Zune digital media player to demonstrate the system’s flexibility.
Fast forward a few years, and only a couple of things remain constant: the ubiquity of Apple’s iPod was replaced with the ubiquity of the iPhone, the Zune and Treo are dead, and the Razr became an Android smartphone. Ford’s Sync system, happily, works with both major schools of smartphone thought, allowing drivers to voice activate things like climate, audio, and navigation destinations and detours.
Along the way, Sync has had its fair share of highs and lows. The original Ford Sync system–which relied solely on physical buttons, later adding a touchscreen for navigation-equipped vehicles–was critically acclaimed and earned Ford major credentials with buyers looking to merge their love of mobile devices with their love of cars. That system is still in production today, albeit in a more advanced form: Sync with MyFord now integrates things like MOG digital music streaming, NPR News reports and podcasts, turn-by-turn navigation (even without an on-board GPS system), and even daily deals courtesy of Roximity.
But jump up a level, and things get a bit more murky. Ford’s Sync system hit its sophomore slump shortly after a new Sync-plus-touchscreen platform dubbed MyFord Touch debuted in January 2010. The first iteration of the system–built on top of Microsoft’s Sync platform, but reportedly not engineered by Microsoft–was a near-disaster as drivers complained of slow and dimwitted controls, freeze-prone screens, and other woes. MyFord Touch received a major software upgrade (given to all MFT/MyLincoln Touch customers via USB stick) in March of this year, but infotainment continues to be a sticking point for Ford in initial quality metrics from companies like J.D. Power and Associates. For what it’s worth, users of Sync with MyFord seem to be as happy as ever.
Woes aside, Ford’s Sync is likely one of the most popular mass-market infotainment/technology suites, and five million is no small number. We hope the next five million Sync-equipped cars perform brilliantly.