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Making Legacy Vehicles Smart : Ford’s Strategy to Usher Legacy Vehicles Into Their Connected Vehicle Ecosystem

Scott Thomson Blog

Practically every new car sold today, from entry level subcompacts to luxury SUVs, have connectivity built into their driving experience. Services ranging from infotainment apps to remote start and car diagnostics are now commonplace and incorporate smartphone apps. But as connected vehicles are now widespread in the market, what value do drivers of older “dumb” vehicles benefit from their chosen automaker and vice versa?

Earlier this year, Ford released an OBD II dongle for their 2010-2016 range of Ford and Lincoln models. This dongle essentially adds smart capabilities to vehicles that have not had access to new services or infotainment features since their original purchase. The easily installable dongle is full of technology including a 4G LTE modem, allowing it to act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 8 devices. On top of the connectivity, drivers with the dongle get access to capabilities such as remote start, remote lock and unlock, security alerts, and health information about their vehicle. While the immediate benefit for customers can be seen, there are more crucial reasons why Ford is connecting their legacy vehicles.

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Re-engagement with a valuable customer base The automotive market is getting more competitive as vehicle manufacturers evolve their connected experience. Tesla for example, has already surpassed the 92 year old Fiat Chrysler brand in stock valuation due to their innovation in electric power and class leading connected features. Ford understands this and by providing the dongle to consumers who are driving their older vehicles, they ensure that they keep Ford at the forefront of their mind when it comes to buying their next vehicle. More importantly, this helps usher in drivers to Ford’s maintenance program, carving out new revenue from driver’s who have not serviced their vehicles at a Ford dealership in years. As Brett Wheatley, executive director of Ford’s Customer Service Division noted in the official press release “We think it’s a great opportunity for our dealers to stay connected after the time of purchase, to make sure that they’re in regular contact with that customer, keeping their vehicle in great working condition.”
New revenue streams can be tested and deployed By deploying additional connected services to older vehicles, Ford is now in a prime position to not only sell older traditionally non-connected drivers on the benefits of additional apps and services, but also slowly introduce them to the purchasing of apps in the future. Depending on how well their OBD dongle works alongside their MyFord mobile app, Ford can expect plenty of customers to be in constant contact with the Ford brand and start to become familiar with purchasing additional apps and services from the automaker.
Ford is pulling off the grid drivers into data collection Data is everything, and the more automakers can understand about their drivers, both from the standpoint of driving habits and infotainment usage, the better they can refine their connected vehicle experience. This new dongle has the capability to capture new data from older vehicles that Ford has never had access to before. Data collection doesn’t just benefit automakers and their partners though, it also gives drivers insight into their vehicles before the dreaded check engine light comes on, enabling them to take on preventative maintenance and enjoy long term cost savings.

The strategy for automakers to connect their legacy vehicles holds tangible benefits for brand loyalty and new ongoing revenue streams. Ford has always been at the forefront of defining the driving experience and giving customers something they never knew they needed. Connecting legacy customers with new services and features via an OBD is just another example of Ford’s innovation. As so famously put by Henry Ford during the inception of the automobile, “If we asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”