Overview / Main Features
Ford Sync (2nd generation) is essentially complete communications link for the late model Ford, Lincoln and Mercury product lines.
The main differentiating feature of Ford Sync when compared with other conventional in-vehicle entertainment /communications systems is the focus on providing a seamless voice-activated hands-free HMI (human-machine interface) that leverages voice recognition as a primary control input for the user and artificially voiced "text-to-speech output as the main feedback to the user. This liberates drivers from having to fiddle with knobs and buttons and take their eyes from the road to look at ever-larger in-vehicle displays to control the system.
Though the technologies of voice recognition and text-to-speech have been around for a long time, and Ford was not even the first to market factory-installed voice recognition interfaces in automobiles. Ford Sync is still, at least from a marketing point of view, an evolutionary step in automotive electronics, and probably the largest scale implementations of it's kind for automotive voice interface electronics.
Overall the direction for Ford is a smart one, considering it does not replace common and popular devices such as iPods or cell phones, but rather makes them more functional and safely accessible within the vehicle to the driver. Given the mounting concerns and issues revolving around the dangers of distracted driving, Ford Sync really gives the automaker a leg up on its competition by being on the forefront of a technology that others will quickly and inevitably have to emulate.
Hardware evolution - This analysis was performed in September 2010, we have the benefit of having analyzed, back in late 2008, the original first generation Sync hardware. Architecturally, aside from the addition of WiFi, nothing jumps out as revolutionary, with the core of the design still relying on a 3 chip Freescale chipset, though the specs have evolved there as well.
A Major Memory Upgrade - Despite the cost of the core functional circuitry, it is memory that takes the most prominent cost roles in Ford's Gen 2 Sync module because they multiplied the amount of DRAM and NAND flash by 8. This cost is driven mostly by significant DRAM content (the #1 cost driver overall) (4 x 1Gb, vs. 2 x 256Mb), but also partly because of the use of SLC NAND flash (inherently expensive) (2GB this time vs. 2Gb last time), so memory ends up being the number 1 and 2 cost drivers in Ford's Gen 2 Sync module. Future proofing this design bears this price tag.
Cortex A8 Core in Freescale - The core of the Freescale suite is the MCIMX516AJM6C processor, which, in this round, is based on ARM core Cortex A8 architecture as are so many new smart phones, such as the iPhone, but also other devices featuring OMAP processors from TI such as the OMAP3430 (Archos 7501 media player) and Samsung in their Hummingbird series apps processor found in the Wave handset.
Bluetooth and WiFi Integrated - Considering this is an automotive design, it is pretty edgy applying a Mitsumi module with Broadcom's BCM4325 chip. Usually the long design cycles in automotive products might keep them out of a product that is currently used in very recent handset designs such as the Motorola Backflip and LG GW620 handsets. The BCM4325 IC provides both WLAN (802.11b/g) with Bluetooth V2.1+EDR and even FM radio receiver in a single chip. To make it 'board-ready', though, we find many handset and other manufacturers use turnkey modules supplied by third parties (Mitsui in this case), which simplifies design by not requiring any support circuitry, and offers designers a kind of 'plug n' play' approach to their design.
Upgraded Freescale MCU - MC9S12XEP100CAG - also a 16 bit MCU like last time but with more on chip flash EEPROM and RAM
Cirrus Logic Audio Codec - Unaltered - CS42448
Ford vehicle purchasers. Ford Sync is, of course, a Ford-proprietary system and as such is and will only be available as a factory or Ford dealer installed option.
Ford previewed the first version of Sync at CES in 2007, having signed a production deal with Microsoft and Continental in April 2006. Sync was a Model Year 2008 release in September 2007 on Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury cars. The current hardware we are analyzing is new and has begun its sales in Model Year 2011 Ford and Lincoln products, starting with the 2011 Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX, and other models in the 2011 and 2012 time frame. The Mercury brand has been discontinued, and therefore will not receive any of the updates.
Upon release, Ford pricing was $395 USD for the option installed, however, this cost is hidden to the end consumer. Ford has congruently released its new infotainment specification, the MyFord platform. The Gen 2 Sync will be a module that links into the new distributed architecture of MyFord and will act as its communications link, serving both Bluetooth solutions as well as in-vehicle internet via the embedded WiFi chip. Ford maintained the $395 for the Sync module itself, but it will be a part of a package around $1,000 USD, which includes items like a touch screen, rear camera, and audio system which were not profiles in this cost analysis.
Availability - In North America, Ford Sync is available on all Ford and Lincoln models, except the Ford Ranger, which is slated to be discontinued after model year 2011. When initially launched, the first generation Ford Sync was only available on the Edge, Explorer, Focus, Fusion, Sport Trac, Taurus, Taurus X, Mercury Milan, Mercury Mountaineer, Mercury Sable, Lincoln MKX, and MKZ.
Currently Sync is only available in the US market, however Ford plans to release the unit into the European market in 2011, as their new global product lines reach those markets. It is likely the first Ford Sync-enabled product in the European market will be the new 2012 Ford Focus.
For the purposes of this teardown analysis, we have assumed a lifetime production volume of 2.5 million units with a lifetime of approximately 4 years.
As a reminder, teardown volume production assumptions are primarily used for our cost analysis in terms of amortized NRE and tooling costs, especially for custom components specific to the model being analyzed (mechanical components especially). Unless assumed volumes are different by an order of magnitude, minor changes in volume (say 1 million vs. 2) rarely have a large net effect on our final analysis because of this.
Market / Sector Performance
Ford is currently the dominant vendor of discrete (non-headunit based) connectivity solutions for Bluetooth and USB using a voice interface. Volume shipments in 2007 were 100K units, which increased very rapidly to over 1 Million units in early 2009. iSuppli forecasts Ford Sync sales to increase to over 1.5 million annually by the end of 2011, putting cumulative Ford Sync sales numbers just under 5 million units. Ford has stated indirectly that Sync's success in the market has proven important to their sustainability and growth in the recent recessive economic conditions.
Ford's selection of a Microsoft Windows Embedded operating system allowed the Microsoft automotive project team to leverage the development work from Fiat's Blue&Me (USB and Bluetooth connectivity) solution.
- Honda: HandsFreeLink
- Daimler: UHI (Universal Handsfree Interface)
- Fiat: Blue&Me
- Kia: UVO
iSuppli believes the influence of discrete connectivity solutions is expected to spread to other volume manufacturers. In May 2008, Hyundai announced work with Microsoft that eventually lead to the development of Kia UVO, which will launch in the end of 2010. Kia UVO integrates connectivity and interface features similar to Ford Sync. Further development on hands-free interfaces will continue as many automakers look to benchmark performance against Ford and it's Sync product lines.
The Ford Sync BOM is dominated, from a cost perspective, by the DRAM and SLC NAND flash, as previously mentioned. Because of the long product lifetime, it is assumed that it was decided to stay 'ahead of the curve' and memory was upped by a factor of 8, so it's not surprising the cost stature of it. Otherwise - the Freescale suite of 3 chips (core processor, MCU and power management chip) collectively also represent a very significant portion of the BOM and ultimately the functionality of the Sync hardware core. The WLAN/BT/FM module from Mitsui is also a top 5 component worth noting.
It is also worth noting that pricing never sits still, and that over the 4 years of expected lifetime in this design, and the inherent price erosion in most electronic components, that we would expect Ford to be able to cost optimize this design constantly over its lifetime. This analysis only represents a snapshot in time at the beginning of the product's lifetime.
Main Cost Drivers Representing ~72% of total materials cost
Micron Technology - MT46H64M16LFCK-5 IT:A - SDRAM - Mobile DDR, 1Gb, (16Mx16x4), 200MHz, 1.8V - (Qty:4)
Micron Technology - MT29F16G08ABABAWP-IT - Flash - SLC NAND, 2GB, Extended Temperature Range -40C to 85C - (Qty:1)
Freescale - MCIMX516AJM6C - Multimedia Applications Processor - (Qty:1)
Mitsumi - Bluetooth / FM / WLAN Module - IEEE802.11a/b/g, Bluetooth V2.1+EDR, FM Receiver, Contains BCM4325 Flip Chip, 65nm - (Qty:1)
PCB - 8-Layer - FR4, Lead-Free - (Qty:1)
Texas Instruments - CAVC8T245QRHLRQ1 - Bus Transceiver - Dual, 8-Bit, w/ Configurable Voltage Control, & 3-State Output - (Qty:8)
Enclosure, Main, Bottom - Aluminum Alloy, Die-Cast, Machined - (Qty:1)
Freescale - MC9S12XEP100CAG - Microcontroller - 16 Bit, 1000kB On-Chip Flash, 4kB EEPROM, 64KB On-Chip RAM - (Qty:1)
Freescale - PC13892JVL - Power Management & User Interface IC - (Qty:1)
Enclosure, Main, Top - Aluminum Alloy, Die-Cast, Machined - (Qty:1)
Materials and Manufacturing $118.71
What Is Not Included in our Cost Analysis
The total materials and manufacturing costs reported in this analysis reflect ONLY the direct materials cost (from component vendors and assorted EMS providers), AND manufacturing with basic test. Not included in this analysis are costs above and beyond the material manufacture of the core device itself - cost of intellectual property, royalties and licensing fees (those not already included into the per component price), software, software loading and test, shipping, logistics marketing and other channel costs including not only EMS provider and the OEM's margin, but that of other resellers. Our cost analysis is meant to focus on those costs incurred in the manufacture of the core device and exceptionally in some circumstances the packaging and literature as well.
OEM/ODM/EMS Relationships / Manufacturing
The OEM in this particular scenario is not known, but for the first Ford Sync module we analyzed that it was understood to be Continental Automotive Systems, specifically their telematics business unit (formerly Motorola, but acquired by Continental), and was made in China per markings on the device. With this revision it is unknown if Continental or other 3rd parties are involved, and it is assumed to have been manufactured in Mexico.
Country of Origin / Volume Assumptions
Based on markings, the unit was assembled in Mexico from PCB population up through final assembly. Final assembly in this case, is little more than putting the populated PCB into a two piece die cast enclosure. Furthermore, we have assumed that custom mechanicals (plastics, metals, etc. were sourced also sourced locally in Mexico.
Country of origin assumptions relate directly to the associated cost of manufacturing, where calculated by iSuppli. In the cases of 'finished' sub-assemblies (such as stand-alone Bluetooth modules), we do not calculate internal manufacturing costs, but rather assess the market price of the finished product in which case country of origin assumptions may or may not have a direct effect on pricing.
Remember also that labor rates are applied directly only to hand inserted components and systems in our bill of materials, and although regional assumptions do, these new rates do not have a direct effect on our modeled calculations of placement costs for automated SMD assembly lines. ""Auto" inserted components (such as SMT components) placement costs are calculated by an iSuppli algorithm which allocates a cost per component based on the size and pincount of the device. This calculation is affected by country or region of origin as well.
Design for Manufacturing / Device Complexity
The first generation of Ford Sync hardware featured a total of 980 components, placing it up there, in terms of relative complexity with many high end handsets, the Ford Sync, 2nd generation is almost identical at 987 components.
The component count is a direct result of a design that relies, off-the-shelf components with little dedicated functionality. The PCB is actually pretty sparsely populated, but that's a result of electronics getting smaller, but the space available for automotive modules is about the same as it typically is.
Component counts have a direct bearing on the overall manufacturing cycle times and costs, and also can increase or decrease overall yields and re-work. Our calculations of manufacturing costs factor counts and more qualitative complexities in the design.
Note that manual labor has a much smaller effect on auto-insertion assembly lines (for the Main PCB, for example), where manufacturing costs are much more capital equipment intensive and driven by these investment costs.
As mentioned above the Ford Sync design uses primarily discrete, off-the-shelf, electronic components (as opposed to being specialized custom components or ASICs). The Sync design does not feature a dedicated chip focused on speech / voice recognition, which frankly, we have yet to see, because it's a complex function that seems primarily to still be achieved through software even in smartphones. Ford Sync uses a generic applications processor and microcontroller chipset from and software from Microsoft to perform this core feature.
The core of the Ford Sync design revolves around the Freescale MCIMX516AJM6C Multimedia Applications Processor which is based on ARM's Cortex A8 core, and the Freescale 16-bit microcontroller (MC9S12XEP100CAG), as well as a power management / user interface IC (PC13892JVL). These are parts designed for automotive usage, but are not custom for this design.
The Bluetooth link previously provided by CSR's BC41B143A05 BlueCore 4 chip is now surpassed by a totally integrated WiFi Plus Bluetooth Plus FM radio receiver in a single Broadcom BCM4325 chip (mounted on a turnkey Mitsui module). This Mitsui module with Broadcom core provides 802.11 a/b/g connectivity, Bluetooth V2.1+EDR, and FM Receiver. The BCM4325 and BCM4329 (w/ 802.11b/g/n) are now very common in smartphone designs we have analyzed (competing with TI's set of solutions)
Cirrus Logic again provides a multi-line ADC/DAC audio codec, (CS42448), and as mentioned there is also significant DRAM / NAND Flash content, which can be multi-sourced, but the hardware we analyzed showed Micron Technology in the SDRAM and NAND flash slots.
Here is a summary of the major components used in the Ford Sync design:
Core Silicon & Module
- Applications Processor - Freescale - MCIMX516AJM6C - Multimedia Applications Processor
- Bluetooth / FM / WLAN Module - Mitsumi - IEEE802.11a/b/g, Bluetooth V2.1+EDR, FM Receiver, Contains BCM4325 Flip Chip, 65nm
- Bus Transceiver - Texas Instruments - CAVC8T245QRHLRQ1 - Dual, 8-Bit, w/ Configurable Voltage Control, & 3-State Output (Qty: 8)
- Microcontroller - Freescale - MC9S12XEP100CAG - 16 Bit, 1000kB On-Chip Flash, 4kB EEPROM, 64KB On-Chip RAM
- Power Management & User Interface IC - Freescale - PC13892JVL
- SDRAM - Micron Technology - MT46H64M16LFCK-5 IT:A - SDRAM - Mobile DDR, 1Gb, (16Mx16x4), 200MHz, 1.8V (Qty 4)
- NAND Flash - Micron Technology - MT29F16G08ABABAWP-IT - SLC NAND, 2GB, Extended Temperature Range -40C to 85C