Ford to power older cars with Wi-Fi through SmartLink

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. will offer customers with older model vehicles the connectivity of a new vehicle that includes 4G Wi-Fi through a small device that plugs into the car.

The Dearborn automaker said Friday that the small Ford SmartLink device plugs into the OBD II port below the steering wheel and will give owners of 2010-2016 Ford, Lincoln and some Mercury vehicles without built-in modems the ability to connect on the road. Millions of customers could possibly take advantage of the device, Ford said.

Ford SmartLink will allow customers to use their smartphones and an app to remotely start a car and lock and unlock its doors; have Wi-Fi capability for up to eight devices in their car; and to access vehicle health and safety alerts and vehicle location services such as geo-fencing a certain area. The technology also will allow customers to schedule appointments with dealers.

“Ford SmartLink will surprise and delight owners of recent model-year vehicles by adding some of today’s most popular connectivity features” Stephen Odell, executive vice president of Ford global marketing, sales and service, said in a statement.

The device will be available beginning this summer at Ford and Lincoln dealerships and also will be available to buy online, said Brett Wheatley, executive director of Ford North America’s customer service division.

Ford did not provide any pricing information but said it would be available closer to the summer.

Wheatley said groups of customers now are testing the devices and will give feedback to help Ford as it develops pricing options that could include an upfront price or monthly options.

He said many Ford customers like connectivity in new vehicles, but they may have an older Ford, too, in the garage.

“We’re basically giving them the option now to upgrade their older vehicle to get the W-Fi, to get the lock, to get the unlock, remote start, some of the features that they really enjoyed in their new vehicle,” he said.

The Dearborn automaker worked for more than two years with Delphi Automotive and Verizon Telematics to develop the product. Delphi offers Delphi Connect with similar features. Verizon Wireless customers, for example, can purchase the device with 4G Wi-Fi capability for $199.99, plus activation on a cellphone plan and a $5 monthly subscription plan to Delphi.

But Ford officials said SmartLink will be Ford’s own product and has gone through extensive testing through the company.

“From security to performance, we’ve conducted extensive testing and made a number of improvements to ensure Ford SmartLink enhances the customer experience for our owners,” Raj Nair, executive vice president of Ford global product development, said in a statement.

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