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bc q&a

The Auto Connector: 5 Questions with Ford's Michael Thomas

Posted by Dale Buss on December 24, 2014 12:01 PM

Ford Sync 3 CES 2015

Ford will be all over the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas—the world's biggest showcase of cutting-edge technology. The F-150 truck is the official vehicle of CES 2015, while Ford Motor Co. president and CEO Mark Fields is making a keynote address on Jan. 6 about "what’s next for Ford and the company’s commitment to innovation in all parts of its business."

Ford will debut Sync 3 at CES, its newly overhauled infotainment system, which is meant to make Ford and Lincoln customers forget about the user-unfriendliness of the previous systems, MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch. In an auto market where connectivity developments are among the most important new features of practically every vehicle, including the coming generation of driverless cars, this is a race in which Ford—once comfortably in the lead—can't afford to fall behind.

Auto design has always been about the harmony between humans and machines, and even more so today, where connected cars are a must for consumers. That's where Michael Thomas comes in. As a human-machine interface (HMI) researcher for Ford, he analyzes the implications of this key relationship for infotainment systems and the entire automotive experience. 

brandchannel chatted with Thomas in the lead-up to CES about how in-car connectivity is evolving in the U.S. and beyond.Continue reading...

bc q&a

Digital Topping: 5 Questions with Domino's Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle

Posted by Dale Buss on December 22, 2014 01:02 PM

Domino's pizza mobile voice ordering app

Change is slicing into the global pizza business, and the biggest change has nothing to do with toppings, crusts, shapes, sizes or ingredients. It's technology.

America's top pizza brands—Pizza Hut followed by No. 2 Domino's Pizza and, to a lesser extent, No. 3 Papa John's—are using a new focus on online and mobile ordering and other digital touchpoints to continue to grab share from one another but, especially, from the thousands of independent pizza shops that always have been a big part of the fabric of the pizza industry in the United States.

Arguably, Domino's ranks No. 1 in digital engagement and expertise among its peers. The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based brand began 2014 with an announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas about a pizza-ordering app for Ford's Sync infotainment system and ended this year with its first national ad campaign focusing on digital technology, with a 30-second TV spot promoting the introduction of its Siri-like "Dom" mobile voice ordering.

Credit goes to Domino's CEO J. Patrick Doyle, who has overseen this sweeping transformation with a series of smart moves.Continue reading...


Ford Gets in Sync, Dropping MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch

Posted by Dale Buss on December 11, 2014 01:19 PM

Ford Sync 3

When it came time to improve on its Sync infotainment system and brand a few years ago, Ford got a little too clever, some felt, undermining the seameless technology experience for owners and tarnishing its sterling brand.

Now, with the launch of the third-generation Sync 3, Ford is finally on the road to correcting mistakes which have cost the brand a great deal of comfort and credibility with Ford buyers and came up with a new system that a company researcher told brandchannel is "simpler overall."Continue reading...

digital moves

GM Hopes New OnStar 4G LTE Service Flies with WiFi-Crazy Car Buyers

Posted by Dale Buss on May 13, 2014 04:07 PM

General Motors is going further down the infotainment road first paved by its OnStar brand 18 years ago, fielding a new, hard-wired digital stream in its new cars through a partnership with AT&T to provide 4G LTE connectivity. Only this time, its critics say, by providing on-board internet service, GM is only offering a service that already is available to people in its vehicles in a number of other ways (like their smartphones). 

No doubt GM believes that its a la carte 4G LTE service, which it announced earlier this year at CES, will attract consumers when it is offered beginning next month in the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu and then, over the course of the year, in 30 other GM models. It'll begin marketing the service under OnStar and its vehicle brands in the coming weeks.

"There are a lot of learnings we have built up" through OnStar over the years, Phil Abram, GM's Chief Infotainment Officer, told brandchannel. "It's not as simple as bolting a modem into a car. It's much more sophisticated than that. And also to make sure you have the services to back it up. That's where GM has a broad advantage."Continue reading...

executive decision

Brand Leadership: CEO Mulally Yields to Fields At Ford

Posted by Dale Buss on May 1, 2014 04:44 PM

It happened in fits and starts, if relatively smoothly overall. But COO Mark Fields has finally received the official nod to "go further" at Ford—as the automaker's next president and CEO. Following a long period as current CEO Alan Mulally's protégé, Fields will take over as the the company's top executive on July 1.

"Mark has transformed several of our operations around the world into much stronger businesses during his 25 years at Ford," executive chairman Bill Ford commented. "Now, Mark is ready to lead our company into the future as CEO."

Ford (aka Ford scion William C. Ford II) was smart enough to recruit Mulally from Boeing to take over his own job as Ford's CEO in 2006 and wise enough to back Mulally through a number of controversial decisions, including the financially-driven decision to leverage the company to the hilt soon after his arrival and to forego federal-taxpayer assistance in 2009 when rivals General Motors and Ford took government bailout funds.Continue reading...

Whether in Barcelona, Geneva—Or Both—Car Brands are Making News in Europe

Posted by Dale Buss on February 26, 2014 04:49 PM

With the European auto market showing signs of life after a five-year recession, and mobile-connectivity technology coming to dominate automobile design worldwide, there are hundreds of car brand executives flocking to Geneva and Barcelona this week.

At this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, increasing news about the latest in automotive technology is being made alongside myriad announcements about smartphone advances and news from the "internet of things." It's similar to how the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas each January has emerged as a crucial venue for advancements in automotive digital technology.

The Geneva Motor Show kicks off next week at a time when it appears European auto sales finally may have bottomed out. Combined with the fact that many of the advances they show won't be available for a year or a few years anyway, the Geneva show is a more important platform for car brands than it has been in some years.Continue reading...

mobile brands

MWC '14: With QWERTY Keyboard in Hand, BlackBerry Plans Out Return to Greatness

Posted by Mark J. Miller on February 25, 2014 06:42 PM

If there's any news worth reading about out of Mobile World Congress this week, it's that BlackBerry is essentially rising from the dead. 

After falling from what was once the highest point on the smartphone mountain, the Canadian mobile brand looks to be making a comeback with new products, services and partnerships. But a big part of BlackBerry's comeback strategy isn't looking to the future—it's pulling from the past. 

Along with lower-priced devices aimed at emerging markets in Asia, the brand “plans to offer a retro-styled device with a keyboard” and trackpad, the Wall Street Journal reports. It may seem antiquated, but the phone also has built-in Menu, Back, Send, and End buttons—all requests of longtime customers looking for that "classic" BlackBerry feel. 

"We are definitely here to compete and make up some lost ground," BlackBerry CEO John Chen said, the Journal reports. Chen continues to be excited about the challenge BlackBerry has ahead of it: “This is like the third shift, sitting there, by myself…and trying to figure out where the problem is,” he said. "It could be devastating—you could be wrong. You could be working on a problem in circles and looking at the wrong places. But it could be really cool too.”Continue reading...

Consumer Reports Creates More Turmoil in Auto Hierarchy, But Lexus is Still Tops

Posted by Dale Buss on February 25, 2014 04:02 PM

Consumer Reports' closely watched rankings of auto brands and top vehicles are out for 2014. And while Japanese brands remain on top, the annual evaluations once again are providing an illustration of major automakers increasingly clustering together in how their vehicles are regarded by consumers.

Japanese automakers captured 7 of the top 10 ranked brands overall for reliability and road-test performance in the tests conducted by the magazine. And the top-ranked Detroit brands, Buick and GMC, could do no better than tie to rank 12th.

Yet in the magazine's separate list of Top Picks in each vehicle segment, Japanese brands took only five of the top 18 spots, the fewest in the 18-year history of the publication's picks. Japanese brands had taken more than 70 percent of those spots since 1997.Continue reading...

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