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CEA Says Ford Acts Like CE Company

Ford Motor Company president/CEO Alan Mulally called the car the “fourth screen” in consumer electronics after the TV, PC and portable screens during a Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) Webcast last week.

CEA president/CEO Gary Shapiro commented that Ford is “acting and thinking like a consumer electronics company,” so it stood to reason that during the Webcast it was announced that Mulally will give the opening keynote at the 2010 International CES this January.

Ford said it will continue to partner with companies like Microsoft and Apple to bring technology into the car in as little as six, 12 or 24 months from inception, where in the past technologies took several years to actually become car-ready.

Sales of in-vehicle technology are expected to top $9.3 billion in 2009, said Shapiro.

“With three screens that orbit the consumer electronics environment — TVs, PC and mobile devices — we’re starting to see a fourth screen in vehicles start to frame the consumer electronics experience for the consumer,” Steve Koenig, CEA’s industry analysis senior director, said during the Webcast.

Now that half of households own MP3 players, consumers want to use their devices in the car in a safe way, he added.

Ford executives, including Jim Buczkowski, electric/electrical systems engineering director, claimed that Ford’s Sync voice-recognition technology helps to connect devices to the car while allowing hands-free operation and eyes on the road. Buczkowski said Ford supports current legislation that would eliminate texting on a handheld while driving, and Shapiro said about half the states are in the process of banning texting while driving.

Buczkowski said 70 percent of Ford vehicles are now sold with Sync voice-controlled radios, and cars with Sync continue to sell off the lot twice as fast as those Ford cars without Sync.

When asked if Ford is working to drive down the price of in-dash navigation, Buczkowski said, “We are very aware of where we need to be to compete with devices like PNDs [portable GPS devices] and what we have to do go get there.”

Ford connected services director Doug VanDagens noted that Ford’s latest generation of Sync radios provide voice-guided traffic directions for free for three years.

Mulally’s keynote is his second consecutive keynote address at CES. Then-General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner keynoted in 2008.

Mulally is scheduled to deliver his keynote address at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010, in the Hilton Center, following a State of the CE Industry keynote address delivered by Shapiro.

Some of CES’s major in-vehicle electronics exhibitors include AT&T CruiseCast by RaySat Broadcasting, Directed Electronics, Dual Electronics, InstallerNet, Kenwood USA, Kia Motors, Metra, Mitek, Pioneer and Scosche.

Mulally joins a CES keynote lineup that includes Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo of Nokia, who will speak at the third annual Technology and Emerging Countries (TEC) program; Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and Intel’s Paul Otellini; and Hisense chairman Zhou Houjian, who will also deliver a TEC keynote address. — Additional reporting by Steve Smith