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Bangkok show: Ford Focus in Sync with Australia

Lip Sync: Ford Asia Pacific and Africa product director Trevor Worthington with the Thai-spec Focus at the Bangkok motor show.

Focus to pioneer Ford’s Sync connectivity in Australia when Thai cars arrive

Ford logo27 Mar 2012

FORD’S Focus small car will become the first Blue Oval model in Australia to get the company’s cutting-edge in-car connectivity technology – called Sync – when local Focus sourcing switches from Europe to Thailand in the third quarter of this year.

Capable of recognising up to 150 voice commands to allow sophisticated hands-free control of mobile phone connectivity – including voice-to-text – and other functions, Sync has already been rolled out in North America, where the company says four million vehicles have it installed.

The Thai-built Focus – to be assembled at a new $430 million plant at Rayong that is scheduled to open in May – will gain the new function as part of an upgrade that will also include safety technologies such as low-speed crash avoidance and blind-spot warning, but probably only on top-end models.

Ford Australia brand communications manager Neil McDonald confirmed to GoAuto that the Sync system as shown in the Thai-spec car at the Bangkok show would make it into vehicles to be exported to Australia from the third quarter of this year.

The company already imports the Fiesta light car and Ranger ute from Thailand, which has a free-trade agreement with Australia.

27 center imageLeft: Ford Asia Pacific and Africa president Joe Hinrichs with the new Focus in Bangkok. Below: The Thai Focus destined for Australia from about August.

The addition of Focus to the Thai-made list in about August will double the volume of Ford vehicles coming from the Asian production centre to about 3000 units a month – almost half of Ford’s local sales.

Lower production costs, a five per cent import duty reduction and a shorter transport pipeline will make the Thai Focus a better value proposition for Ford Australia – and potentially for customers.

The Mircrosoft-enabled Sync system expands on the voice-activated systems currently available in some imported Ford models such as the Fiesta and Mondeo, but takes the technology to a whole new level, controlling phone, text, music and data functions in the car.

For example, users can browse their phone or iPod music collection by genre, album, artist, playlist or song title using voice commands.

Sync can even put together a playlist of the music the driver is in the mood for with the “play similar” command.

Using Bluetooth, Sync can wirelessly connect up to eight different mobile phones, automatically transferring all the names and numbers in the phone’s contact list to the in-vehicle system.

However, for privacy reasons, the contacts cannot be dialed or sent a text unless the user’s phone is connected, either via Bluetooth or a USB wire.

Callers can even seamlessly continue their call on the hands-free microphone when getting into their car as the Bluetooth system will hook up immediately the car is started.

The car’s LCD screen shows the same caller ID, call waiting, conference calling, caller log, contact list, signal strength icon and phone battery charge icon as the phone, and will even recognise the user’s ringtone on supported phones and play it when a call comes in.

Text messages can be retrieved and read aloud, including popular abbreviations and emoticons such as LOL (laugh out loud) and :-D (big smile).

Using voice activation, the driver can also send a text reply from a predetermined list of 15 responses.

According to Ford, Sync can cope better with variations in accent and vocabulary than previous systems, making it easier to access more content by voice.

The voice that reads out the text and other messages is a female “Samantha” – described as “UK English”. So far, the system is available only in English, although Ford is working with its technology partners on other languages.

Unveiling the Focus at the Bangkok show, Ford’s Asia Pacific and Africa product programs director Trevor Worthington – a former Ford Australia product planning chief – described Sync as “transformational technology, not only for Ford but the entire industry”.

“Sync has been integral to keeping pace with the consumer, delivering value through smart and convenient features that helps keep them connected to their digital lives in a safer, simpler and smarter way,” he said.

The Focus will continue to be built in both five-door hatchback and four-door sedan body styles, with the Thai car being unveiled with a choice of 2.0-litre Ti-VCT GDi and 1.6-litre petrol VCT four-cylinder petrol engines that are already available in the current German-built Focus that was launched here last August.

As well, Ford Australia is set to retain the 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel four-cylinder alternative, along with the current automatic and manual transmission selections.

While mainstream Ford Focus models will come from Thailand from about August, the red-hot Focus ST that is due to arrive in Australia later this year will come from Europe.

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