When Alan Mulally unveiled the Ford Sync infotainment system nearly eight years ago, no other automaker had anything like it. And no one had ever heard of an iPhone.
But Mulally's push to put Ford Motor Co. on the leading edge of in-car technology later backfired with a glitchy, confusing upgrade to Sync known as MyFord Touch, and now Ford is toning down that aspiration as it works to undo the damage.
It's burying the MyFord Touch name and swapping out Microsoft Corp., its partner on Sync from the start, for a BlackBerry-based system from Panasonic, which developed Chrysler Group's well-liked system called Uconnect.
"Sync, when it was first announced in 2007, changed the industry," Mark Fields, who succeeded Mulally as Ford CEO in July, told reporters last week. "With MyFord Touch, we saw benefits, but clearly, we had some quality issues. We've addressed that and listened to customers."
Ford's new system, simply called Sync 3, runs on BlackBerry Ltd.'s QNX operating system, which is found on more than 30 million vehicles spanning 250 models. Sync 3 will be available starting with the 2016 model year. Ford will spread it throughout its U.S. lineup by the end of the 2016 calendar year, officials said.
With Sync 3, Ford is ditching the grand ambitions of MyFord Touch in favor of something it hopes consumers now accustomed to smartphones and tablets will find safer, easier to use and more familiar. Ford says Sync 3 is quicker and has more features than MyFord Touch, but it's not the sort of revolutionary technology that Mulally sought to make Ford stand out from the crowd.
"The focus here was not on creating a brand-new platform full of features that no one else had -- it was on creating something that would be exponentially easier to use than the old system," said Mark Boyadjis, an analyst with IHS Automotive. "I'm convinced that this will be a better solution than their current platform.
"Will it be something that makes people drop everything and run to the nearest Ford dealer? I'm not so sure of that."