Overview / Main Features
The Sync is essentially the electronic control system for a vehicle's entertainment system into which it is installed (Ford vehicles as this is a Ford's invention and product).
The main differentiating feature of the Sync when compared with conventional in-vehicle entertainment / GPS systems is the focus on the system providing a seamless voice-activated handsfree control that leverages voice-recognition as a primary control input for the user and artificially voiced "text-to-speech for one of the main feedback mechanisms 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 the Sync is not even the first manufacturer to market factory-installed voice recognition interfaces in automobiles the Sync is still, at least from a marketing point of view, another evolutionary step for in-vehicle 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.
Coming Fall 2008 - 911 assist and Vehicle Health Report. The 911 assist feature seems to be Ford's take at competing more closely with GM's OnStar system. In contrast to Onstar's embedded connectivity capability, the E911 assist feature in SYNC would send out an emergency call via a paired Bluetooth cell phone. This cell phone would need to be enabled with GPS capability for accurate location positioning in the event of an accident. Some safety bodies have raised concerns about the reliability of this connectivity solution in the event of a serious accident.
FORD vehicle purchasers. The 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 08 Model Year release in September 2007 on Lincoln, Mercury and Ford cars.
Current FORD pricing is $395 USD for the option installed.
Availability - In North America, the Sync is available in the following models as listed on the Ford US website - Edge, Explorer, Focus, Fusion, Sport Trac, Taurus, Taurus X, Mercury Milan, Mercury Mountaineer, Mercury Sable, Lincoln MKX, MKZ.
Currently SYNC is only available in the US market, however Ford plan to release the unit into the European market in 2009
For the purposes of this teardown analysis, we have assumed a lifetime production volume of 1.1 million units.
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.
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, this is expected to ramp to over 1 Million units in 2008
Ford's selection of a windows based operating system allowed the Microsoft automotive project team to leverage the development work from Fiat's Blue and Me (USB and Bluetooth connectivity) solution.
Fiat: Blue and Me
iSuppli believe the influence of discrete connectivity solutions is expected to spread to other volume manufacturers. In May 2008 Hyundai announced that they would offer connectivity and interface features similar to SYNC, on all their cars in the US market form 2010. Once again the OS provider would be Microsoft.
The Ford Sync BOM analysis reveals that, as one would expect, a minority of components represents the majority of the cost. The top 10 components represent approximately 66% of total direct materials in the BOM, with the two main chips from Freescale (applications processor and microcontroller) representing $15.45 (27% of materials in the BOM). Keep in mind that all components that get sold into automotive customers, are typically sold at a premium over commercial / consumer accounts to compensate for the rigid and costly certification / documentation burdens that suppliers have to undergo to work in that space. Those premiums have to some extent been accounted for in the component prices applied in our analysis.
See BOM for details.
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 here is 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. It is unknown if manufacturing was performed at an 'in-house' facility or other EMS.
Country of Origin / Volume Assumptions
Based on markings, the unit was assembled in China. Furthermore, we have assumed that custom mechanicals (plastics, metals, etc. were sourced also sourced in China.
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 Ford Sync, given it's fairly basic functionality, has a surprisingly high component count of 980 components. This is not insignificant and would be the same order of magnitude as a high-end cell phone. The component count is a direct result of a design that is heavy on discrete, off-the-shelf components with little integration.
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. The cost of manufacturing is also, to some extent, decreased in this case because of assumed labor rate applied for China.
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 a lot of discrete, off-the-shelf, standard electronic components (as opposed to being specialized custom components), and the end result is a lot of components for the relatively modest functionality that the device actually provides. Rather than using a dedicated chip focused on speech / voice recognition, the Sync uses a generic applications processor and microcontroller chipset from Freescale (given Continental's acquisition of Motorola's automotive electronics group, from which this device hails, the choice was to be expected), and software from Microsoft to perform this core feature, and, presumably, this collaboration produces superior results to those (in terms of speech recognition) provided in handsets, for example.
The core of the Ford Sync design revolves around the Freescale MCIMX31LCVR Multimedia Applications Processor, and the Freescale 16-bit microcontroller (MC9S12XDP512CAA). The Bluetooth link is provided by CSR's BC41B143A05 BlueCore4 ROM - Single Chip Bluetooth Solution (V2.0+EDR). Cirrus Logic provide a multi-line ADC/DAC audio codec, (CS42448), and there is also significant DRAM / NAND Flash content, which can be multi-sourced, but the hardware we analyzed showed Micron Technology in the SDRAM slots (2 x 256Mb), and Samsung in the NAND Flash slot (2Gb, SLC).
Here is a summary of the major components used in the Ford Sync design:
Applications Processor - Freescale - MCIMX31LCVR - Multimedia Applications Processor
Microcontroller - Freescale - MC9S12XDP512CAA - 16 Bit, 512Kb On-Chip Flash EEPROM, 32KB On-Chip RAM
Audio Codec - Cirrus Logic - CS42448 - Six 24-Bit ADC, Eight 24-Bit DAC
Bluetooth - CSR - BC41B143A05 - BlueCore4 ROM - Single Chip Bluetooth Solution, V2.0+EDR
SDRAM - Micron Technology - MT46H16M16LFBF-75 - 256Mb, (4Mx16x4), 133MHz, 1.8V (Qty 2)
NAND Flash - Samsung - K9F2G08U0A-PIB0 - 2Gb, SLC