The factory-installed system, called Vehicle Communication System, is an option on the 2002 Lincoln LS, Town Car and Continental. Its retail price is $1,295, plus about $20 a month for an entry-level Sprint PCS service plan. Buyers will be given a $100 credit to be used for the Sprint service.
Consumers will not have to pay a separate fee for safety and convenience services for three years.
The system consists of a cell phone, docking station and three buttons: one for emergency and roadside service, another for concierge services and a third to connect users with a hands-free phone. The system provides hands-free access to news, stocks, weather and sports.
Telematics rival OnStar, part of General Motors, has started a similar service with its Virtual Advisor. Customers use a Web site to select preferences, then can have information read to them in an OnStar-equipped vehicle. But the OnStar phone system is embedded in the vehicle.
Ford designed the system with the help of Motorola, ATX Technologies in Irving, Texas, and Sprint PCS. The system includes Motorola’s digital and analog Timeport cell phone and ATX’s call center services.
The system replaces Lincoln’s RESCU telematics system, which was first offered on the 1996 Continental and was available until the 2000 model year on the Continental and LS. The RESCU system used an analog Motorola cellular phone that was attached to the vehicle and could not be used for personal phone calls.
RESCU, which cost $2,355 plus $10.99 a month for route guidance, had two buttons on the driver’s visor that connected users with either emergency and roadside assistance or concierge and route guidance.
Lincoln dealers already have sold the new system to more than 2,500 customers.
Said Ford spokeswoman Nancy Carollo: “We see that as a very good indicator because it’s brand new this model year.”