Ford Motor Co.'s new generation of vehicle diagnostic equipment is selling far ahead of schedule, company officials say, and will begin to reach additional Ford brands in the next few months.
Last year when it introduced the Worldwide Diagnostics System, Ford said it expected to have about 8,000 units installed in dealership service departments by early 2000. Instead, Ford officials said at the NADA convention that it has already placed about 11,400 with dealers in 128 countries.
The system was developed to replace Ford's previous-generation diagnostic tool, known to Ford dealers as SBDS, or Service Bay Diagnostic System. The older shop tool - launched in 1996 - allowed service technicians to diagnose primarily drivetrain problems on Ford cars. According to Ford estimates, only about two-thirds of its U.S. dealers bought the equipment.
The company's Rotunda service unit sold about 3,800 Service Bay Diagnostic System units.
By contrast, Rotunda has already reached about 98 percent of the Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers in the United States with the new version and is now preparing to sell to other Ford brands.
The company expects to have the system available to Jaguar and Aston Martin dealers during the second quarter of this year. It will provide the tool to Mazda dealers during the third quarter. Ford also plans to offer the new technology to Volvo dealers but has not scheduled that rollout.
The Worldwide Diagnostics System is a breakthrough for Ford's dealership network because it has the capacity to diagnose all models produced by any Ford brand. Previously, Ford's North American dealers, Jaguar and Mazda dealers and Ford of Europe dealers each required a different diagnostic system - each one developed specifically for their products.
The new system also has benefited from falling computer-technology costs. The old Service Bay Diagnostic System equipment cost retailers about $36,000 per unit. Some retailers required multiple units.
In addition, Ford also charged dealers monthly operating fees and fees for technology updates, which were occasionally downloaded.
The world system - which has considerably more diagnostic power - costs $9,475 per unit. There are no monthly fees, and the software is updated free through regular automatic downloads from the Internet.
The new Pentium III-based generation also allows technicians to check far more than the engine. The worldwide system can check the performance of antilock brakes, chassis systems, lighting and electrical systems, body components, seating, mirrors, windows, and heating and air conditioning systems.