Notes From the Detroit Auto Show: Connectivity is King

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bracing for push-back from American consumers who mostly have automatic transmissions, some of whom report the experience of Start Stop engines as “disconcerting.” (After all, BMW’s consumers are buying “the ultimate driving machine,” not the most fuel efficient.)

“The challenge is preserving our core DNA while adding efficiency,” Bologna said.

Farley said Ford’s strategy in introducing new technology includes emphasizing second and third delivery of the vehicle, where dealerships will hold special introductory classes or even conduct product-demonstration sessions in a customer’s driveway. He also noted the importance of customers educating one another through social media and other forums.

Ah, yes … social media. It’s expected that today’s 10-year-olds will demand seamless connectivity between their computers and their cars by the time they’re old enough to purchase an automobile, and vehicle manufacturers are preparing for that reality.

Farley said Ford is learning about the concept of social graphs by observing Facebook’s business model in action. Through consumer response to its SYNC system, Farley said, Ford has learned that the next iteration must involve better app deployment, and, eventually, social media.

“There are patterns of our life in the digital world that cars don’t yet know,” Farley says. “Generationally and occupationally, people want that connectivity. They want to know where their friends go and how to get there. We’re exploring how to take advantage of that.”

Farley hinted that Ford will partner with Facebook in the future, and pointed to the Evos, a concept car unveiled last year that would be able to access a driver’s personal cloud of data, as a blueprint for future models.

For its part, BMW has established i Ventures, a $100 million New York-based entity seeking to expand mobility services by making Series A investments in early- and mid-stage tech startups. BMW is also arguably at the global forefront of technology specifically … Next Page »

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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