Ford (NYSE:F) recently collaborated with music provider MOG to provide its consumers with 15 million songs through the company's Sync AppLink feature.
What makes this special is that the service is voice activated. Using Ford's Sync AppLink feature drivers can access the 15 million songs from MOG simply by using their voices. To me, this shows that Ford is in touch with what people want. The company knows that, if it is to inspire interest in its vehicles, it has to be the first to introduce innovations such as this one that will spark the interest of the general populace. Using the app is simple. The driver attaches his or her iPhone to the cars system with a USB connector. Before setting off he launches the MOG application on his phone. And, just like that, MOG automatically becomes an option in the car. From there on out the driver can select songs and control the volume and so simply by using his voice. When the MOG system is selected it will automatically start playing from where you last left off. In short, it remembers what you were doing the last time you launched the app and picks up from there. In-dash controls are also available in addition to the voice command feature. This new feature will be available in a range of 2012 Ford cars that are soon to be released.
This collaboration is in the best interests of both Ford and MOG. MOG will generate an increased interest in Ford's vehicles. People who are in the process of choosing between two car brands may well choose Ford based at least in part on this new innovation. MOG in turn will have access to a potentially larger client base consisting of Ford's customers. The addition of voice control is a great enhancement that will add to the products attractiveness significantly. The overall effects that this new innovation will have on the stock are hard to judge at this point in time, but it could be significant as well.
A few years ago Ford sold its Jaguar Land Rover brand to Tata (NYSE:TTM), a move that the company may now be regretting. This is because Tata experienced a 139% increase in net quarterly profit due in large part to the rising demand for the Jaguar Land Rover. This is good news for Tata's investors certainly, but not for Ford. Initially I thought that Tata, a company that better known for having the cheapest car on the market than for anything else, may be a little in over its head with the Jaguar model.
Toyota (NYSE:TM) and Honda (NYSE:HMC) are under scrutiny for safety reasons at present. Specifically some of Toyota's RAV4, GMC Acadia, and Saturn Outlooks are being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In addition, Honda's are under scrutiny. The main issues are related to safety and that cover a wide range of problems, including everything from "rusty undercarriages to headlights that suddenly stop working". Depending on the outcome of the investigation this could or could not lead to major recalls for both companies, something that will be damaging to the motor stocks.
There are some as yet unsubstantiated reports floating around that Volkswagen would like to acquire Navistar International (NYSE:NAV) in order to better compete with its main rival Daimler. This could be a smart move, and Navistar certainly seems ripe for the picking considering the numerous problems it has experienced of late. However, Volkswagen cannot forget that it will have to deal with the wealthy investor Carl Icahn if this acquisition is to take place. Icahn recently raised his stake in the company causing shares to rise rather significantly. Investors in all three companies should keep an ear open for more news on this rumor.
Competitor General Motors (NYSE:GM) has been awarded substantial amounts of money to use in finding ways of "improving the energy efficiency of advanced manufacturing technologies". General Motors will use the money, an amount of $2.7 million, to improve efficiency by looking into new door manufacturing methods that require less energy. In addition the doors will be lighter which means that the overall fuel efficiency of the vehicles on which they will be used will also be better. Fuel efficiency is something that car manufacturers continually strive towards, as the industry expects these cars to be a great source of future sales.
Ford has also been given grants of this nature in order to help the industry become one that is far more efficient. $10.5 million has been given to Ford for use on two separate projects, one in which Ford is collaborating with Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW), and another in which it is collaborating with the University of Utah. This marks Ford, as well as its primary competitor General Motors, off as a leading private sector innovator, and one that the government trusts to help in the fight to revolutionize manufacturing processes.
In the long run, it seems to me that Ford is still one of the best investment options in the automotive industry. New products and innovations are guaranteed to arise on a regular basis. Focusing on areas such as voice-controlled apps in-car, as well as a focus on improving the energy efficiency of its manufacturing process and in its cars will reward shareholders for a long time.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.