Over the last few years, several notable trends have emerged in digital media and connectivity that are changing the expectations consumers have about the connectivity and technology found in their vehicles. Having recognized these changing conditions, Ford has recently created a new internal organization called Connected Vehicle and Services that will be responsible for managing connectivity across the enterprise.
“SYNC launched a sort of connectivity arms race in the industry,” said Jim Farley, executive vice president, Global Marketing, Sales and Service and Lincoln. “The opportunity is much bigger than just in-car technology — it’s now about connecting the vehicle to a larger ecosystem leveraging ‘the Internet of things.’ We are creating a seamless and immersive experience for customers that begins with their first visit to our digital sites and continues throughout their ownership experience.”
Leading the newly-aligned organization is Don Butler. He will report to Ford product development chief Raj Nair, executive vice president, marketing chief Jim Farley, and chief information officer Nick Smither. Prior to this role, Butler served as vice president of Global Strategy for Cadillac at General Motors. He also led strategy and business development for GM’s OnStar division and prior to that served as vice president for telematics startup INRIX.
“Not only does Don understand the connected car landscape, but probably just as important, he understands customer expectations,” said Nair. “Having a leader with technology experience both inside and outside the industry is a rare combination – we’re excited to have Don join our team.”
Butler’s official title will be executive director of the Connected Vehicle and Services group, making him responsible for Ford’s global integrated connectivity vision and strategy. According to a Ford news release, he will “lead development of a near-, mid- and long-term plan, with the goal of delivering a best-in-class customer experience both inside and outside of the vehicle.”
The new connected vehicle and services division will continue progressing towards Ford’s plan to “deliver a fully integrated connected car experience”. In doing so, it will work with the newly-created Global Digital Marketing group to help accelerate the goal of connecting customers to their vehicles.
“We remain laser-focused on creating connected experiences our customers want and value, providing solutions specifically tailored to their individual needs and to market conditions,” said Farley.
The Motrolix Take
The move to align in-vehicle connectivity efforts with digital marketing in the name of a unified customer experience is welcomed, especially as consumers continue to spend an increasing amount of time with digital media inside and outside the vehicle. In fact, it’s highly likely that this trend will only accelerate gong forward, especially with Ford’s various new initiatives such as the introduction of in-vehicle embedded connectivity as seen on the 2015 Lincoln MKC.
That said, perhaps Ford could also deploy Butler to give Lincoln a hand. Although he wasn’t responsible for architecting the brand’s turnaround from lackluster status to world-class contender, he was part of the team that has made it into the roaring success it is becoming (Cadillac sales were up 21 percent in 2013). And that’s more than we can say about Ford’s Lincoln.