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SYNC v. OnStar
Ford and GM's heavyweight battle
Automotive News

Jamie LeRue
December 13, 2010




Craig Brown's Orlando-based sales job requires him to be on the phone while he's on the road.

For that, he needs an in-car communication system like Ford Motor Co.'s Sync or General Motors Co.'s OnStar. Both allow hands-free calling.

Over the past couple of years, Brown, 38, has owned vehicles with each system. Now he won't have it any other way.

"My next vehicle will definitely have one of those two technologies on it," Brown said.

Ford and GM agree that the systems are gaining importance in purchase decisions. The question for the two rivals is which system Brown -- and millions of other car buyers -- will choose.

The longtime rivals are squared off in a race to bring telematics to mainstream car buyers. They say Sync and OnStar are key purchase considerations -- so much so that the technology changes how dealers sell vehicles and interact with customers.

Ford and GM are reluctant to admit that heated competition exists, saying the systems are different and distinctive. OnStar has been known for safety features such as emergency assistance and stolen-vehicle recovery. Sync typically has focused on Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity and also provides information and entertainment services such as horoscopes and stock quotes.

Matching features

But each automaker is matching the other's key offerings. For example, Ford has introduced 911 Assist and Vehicle Health Reports to compete with OnStar. And OnStar is adding features such as voice-based text messaging from the driver's cell phone.

GM admits that OnStar lost momentum during the automaker's restructuring and bankruptcy in 2008 through 2009. In 2008, GM seriously considered selling OnStar.

As a result of the restructuring, development of some information-entertainment features got derailed, said OnStar President Chris Preuss. That gave Ford a good opportunity to promote Sync, putting OnStar at a disadvantage.

"Who has most effectively marketed all this to customers' benefits? Hands down, Ford," Preuss said. "And they get the credit for it. But we are not following. We're simply on a slightly different strategy."

Preuss is adamant about OnStar's central mission: peace of mind.

"OnStar was built from Day One, 15 years ago, to be a dedicated emergency security services prompt device in the car," Preuss said. "Because we have that, we can do other services. We've been doing turn-by-turn navigation for six years now. We were reading e-mails to people before it was even cool to have e-mail."

OnStar, which has about 6 million subscribers in North America, uses an embedded cellular phone in the vehicle. Preuss said the service is highly profitable for GM, although the company does not release financial data for OnStar.

Ford's Sync is an infotainment system, based on Microsoft software, that pairs with a driver's Bluetooth phone. Sync initially was designed to control music devices and cell phones.

OnStar's main competitive point with Sync is that its embedded technology makes it more reliable in an accident, said Doug Newcomb, senior technology editor of Edmunds.com. Whereas with Sync, the system is "only as good as your cell phone," Newcomb said.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally recently told Automotive News that the automaker does not want to embed its technology in the vehicle. Ford thinks its approach gives it more flexibility to add features and services as technology changes.

"Our approach is to absolutely be one with all the consumer electronics development around the world and not be embedding in anything in the car," Mulally said. "We want to manage the experience in the car."

Ford says Sync's services are intended to improve safety because Sync allows for voice prompts for all services, phone calls and emergency help. It thus limits driver distraction.

Sync: Entertainment-based

"The functionality on this is entertainment-based," said Paul Russell, Sync marketing manager. "But the key is being able to deliver it to the customer in a safe way. That's holistically how we look at it. It's communication and entertainment."

But Ford did add 911 Assist to Sync for the 2009 model year to compete with OnStar's emergency response service. And OnStar knows it has some work to do to offer all that Sync does in entertainment.

"We know we've got to be there. GM's infotainment strategy is totally addressing that," Preuss said. "Next year and the years to come, we're going to have more and more Sync-like features."

Said Edmunds.com's Newcomb: "What you're seeing now is OnStar is trying to play catch-up. They've announced some new features they'd like to implement, such as receive text messages via voice and respond via speech."

OnStar also is working on an application that lets users update their Facebook status using speech.

An application is a software program designed to do a specific task. For example, GM recently came out with OnStar apps to provide remote starting and roadside assistance.

The competing systems are sold differently, too.

OnStar is sold through a subscription costing $199 a year. The price for the hardware is rolled into the sticker price. GM does not break out that information.

Sync costs $395 but carries no other initial fees. After three years, customers retain music and mobile phone service but must pay a $60 annual fee to continue Sync services such as turn-by-turn directions, traffic and personalized information such as sports scores, movie listings, horoscopes and stock quotes.


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Simply put...the cost of entry of SYNC is cheaper than OnStar and doesn't require the higher annual fees to maintain services...or if you can live without TDI and the personalized info, it doesn't cost anything extra in annual service fees. Plus, with the upcoming additions to SYNC 2.0, including apps and partnering with Pandora streaming internet radio and so many other technologies that work seamlessly, SYNC is really the choice to get. It meets the same features that OnStar provides with Ford's 911-Assist and gives you even more in the ways of personal entertainment.

I say SYNC all the way.

That's my two cents.
RG59061
 

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There is advantages that come with both systems. Onstar turn by turn is really excellent. I am just happy we are not talking Toyota here.
Simply put...the cost of entry of SYNC is cheaper than OnStar and doesn't require the higher annual fees to maintain services...or if you can live without TDI and the personalized info, it doesn't cost anything extra in annual service fees. Plus, with the upcoming additions to SYNC 2.0, including apps and partnering with Pandora streaming internet radio and so many other technologies that work seamlessly, SYNC is really the choice to get. It meets the same features that OnStar provides with Ford's 911-Assist and gives you even more in the ways of personal entertainment.

I say SYNC all the way.

That's my two cents.
RG59061
 

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Let's be clear here - Ford invested in its future products - it didn't have Executives like Robert Lutz blogging and insulting the press about how bad GM products were. Ford was looking to the future. GM was looking to cover its arse. Instead of innovating, it was labeling cars with hybrid badges when the products weren't hybrids. GM innovating numerous pricing and rebate gimmicks to sell cars instead of investing in products. And while Ford was selling off brands, GM did nothing.

I have nothing but disrespect and indignation toward the fools at GM and now at Government Motors. This bunch of lazy jerks deserved to go out of business and its dealers, suppliers, employees, and customers deserved to see that corporate corpse dismantled and defiled - but instead, through unconstitutional efforts, we propped up a company that still continues to underwhelm and half-step its products.

Over at Ford you have people who sacrificed - who endured ridicule - but who committed to a plan that could have failed - and now they are delivering some of the finest products in their segments and are innovating.

Out of the rescue of Government Motors, they have precisely ONE product, the Volt, which was oversold, fraudently hyped, and we were deceived about what it was - and that was one of the reasons the company was bailed out.

At Ford, they have real hybrids using Ford technology that can be migrated to an endless array of products. You have Mid Cycle Refreshes that aren't changes in paint and grills like the old days. At Government Motors, you don't even have upgrades at MCE's. You get the same old sham jobs.

When it comes to buying a car, I'd bet my life on Ford engineers rather than half-stepped, compromised, lazy, and incompetent Government Motors ones.
 

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I agree with you on the running down of GM. That Said,
While Clearly Ford has done an exellent Job, GM is not a sad a case you make it to be.

Let's be clear here - Ford invested in its future products - it didn't have Executives like Robert Lutz blogging and insulting the press about how bad GM products were. Ford was looking to the future. GM was looking to cover its arse. Instead of innovating, it was labeling cars with hybrid badges when the products weren't hybrids. GM innovating numerous pricing and rebate gimmicks to sell cars instead of investing in products. And while Ford was selling off brands, GM did nothing.

I have nothing but disrespect and indignation toward the fools at GM and now at Government Motors. This bunch of lazy jerks deserved to go out of business and its dealers, suppliers, employees, and customers deserved to see that corporate corpse dismantled and defiled - but instead, through unconstitutional efforts, we propped up a company that still continues to underwhelm and half-step its products.

Over at Ford you have people who sacrificed - who endured ridicule - but who committed to a plan that could have failed - and now they are delivering some of the finest products in their segments and are innovating.

Out of the rescue of Government Motors, they have precisely ONE product, the Volt, which was oversold, fraudently hyped, and we were deceived about what it was - and that was one of the reasons the company was bailed out.

At Ford, they have real hybrids using Ford technology that can be migrated to an endless array of products. You have Mid Cycle Refreshes that aren't changes in paint and grills like the old days. At Government Motors, you don't even have upgrades at MCE's. You get the same old sham jobs.

When it comes to buying a car, I'd bet my life on Ford engineers rather than half-stepped, compromised, lazy, and incompetent Government Motors ones.
 

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I agree with you on the running down of GM. That Said,
While Clearly Ford has done an exellent Job, GM is not a sad a case you make it to be.
OnStar has a lot of credence and lot of potential to be unlocked quite soon. The partnership with Google is going to make things really exciting.
 

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OnStar has a lot of credence and lot of potential to be unlocked quite soon. The partnership with Google is going to make things really exciting.
I got stuck in a situation in my friend's Saturn a few years ago and his battery died, of course my jumper cables were not in my truck for some reason and we asked the near by wendys if anyone had any but they all said no so we used onstar, and they refused to help us unless we gave them a credit card... kind of lame but I understand you have to pay to use it... still though...
 

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I got stuck in a situation in my friend's Saturn a few years ago and his battery died, of course my jumper cables were not in my truck for some reason and we asked the near by wendys if anyone had any but they all said no so we used onstar, and they refused to help us unless we gave them a credit card... kind of lame but I understand you have to pay to use it... still though...
If this car was 2007 (I believe?) or newer, I think you'd be covered in GM's 5-year, 100,000 miles "Roadside assistance". You'd just need to call the 1-800 number in the manual on your cell phone. Not sure what the policy was prior to 2007.
 

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If this car was 2007 (I believe?) or newer, I think you'd be covered in GM's 5-year, 100,000 miles "Roadside assistance". You'd just need to call the 1-800 number in the manual on your cell phone. Not sure what the policy was prior to 2007.
I believe it was an 06 Saturn VUE


same color and everything

Sure will.

hahahahha that is awesome!
 
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