By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Ford said its 30-day trial with Best Buy to educate consumers about Sync radios resulted in almost 4,000 demos and clinics, but Ford is still debating whether to roll out the program nationally.
The test trial paired Ford dealers in Dallas with 30 local Best Buy locations. The Ford dealers referred customers to Best Buy who wanted to learn more about Ford's Sync radios, which offer such complex features as streaming music over Bluetooth from a phone and delivering traffic updates using the phone's wireless connection.
Ford called the trial “extremely successful,” according to Andrew Rebhun, cross vehicle alliances manager, but said the car maker is evaluating whether to expand the program on a national scale due to budget restraints.
“The short lag time between the conclusion of the test pilot and national rollout is about resource allocation and coordination with local parties,” said Rebhun.
However, some Ford dealers are acting on their own and setting up local trials with nearby Best Buy stores rather than wait for the national roll out. This is occurring in Pittsburgh and in Duarte and North Hills, Calif., said Ford.
During the Dallas trail, consumers who already own a Ford with a Sync radio could come in for a lesson on how to use all its features or consumers considering buying a car could get a demo on cars supplied by Ford and parked at Best Buy.
Best Buy, in turn, educated Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers on which phones work with Sync radios.
Ford claimed 80 percent of participating consumers — who were not current Ford owners — said that the demos improved their opinion of Ford, and a further 70 percent said they are more likely to consider purchasing a Ford in the future as a result of the demo.
For Best Buy, the pilot acted as a traffic generator, bringing in more than 1,600 customers in the Dallas, Fort Worth and West Texas area. Prior to the clinics, 36 percent of customers said they would consider a phone purchase from Best Buy Mobile. After the clinics, that number jumped to 72 percent, said Ford.
Prior to the clinics, only 28 percent of Ford owners knew how to use most of the Sync features, but after the clinics that figure jumped to 69 percent. Also 36 percent of Ford owners said they consider the hands-free phone capabilities one of the best Sync features.
Shawn Score, president of Best Buy Mobile, said, “The success of the pilot program in Texas and the organic developing of relationships between our stores and Ford dealerships across the country are tremendous proof points that consumers are hungry for support and guidance in getting the most out of their increasingly mobile lives.”
Ford is also working with Best Buy at the Los Angeles Auto Show in December where Best Buy will man a booth and perform phone checks for Sync radios, said Ford.
When asked if Ford might work with other consumer electronics retailers, Rebhun said Ford has an exclusive arrangement with Best Buy for the next two years.
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