Ford was a leader in infotainment connectivity between smartphones and its vehicles. But it arguably has trailed other automakers in communicating onboard vehicle diagnostic data.
Beginning this summer, Ford and Lincoln will offer SmartLink, an OBD-II-enabled device designed to give owners of 2010-16 models an array of diagnostic features.
It also will provide remote starting, locking and unlocking, Wi-Fi access for as many as eight devices and security and location alerts.
The Ford system will give owners and dealers proprietary information and functions that an aftermarket company cannot provide, company officials say.
SmartLink "will surprise and delight owners of recent model-year vehicles by adding some of today's most popular connectivity features," says Stephen Odell, Ford Motor's executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service.
Other automakers assert that a hard-wired system offers more proprietary data and functions than a system based on an OBD-II port.
"Meineke and others can get vehicle speeds and other information through the port," says David Ploucha, president of Control-Tec, a provider of telematics and analytics software that Delphi acquired in 2015.
"But door-lock states, internal temperature settings and other information that you get from the HVAC controller, they can't get because it's proprietary," he says. "Without a good, proprietary relationship with an OEM, you're going to struggle to get rich data.
"In the case of the typical vehicle, there are 20,000 to 30,000 signals that you could capture," Ploucha adds, "and the OBD-II port will only allow you to capture about 20 of them."
OnStar is the original hard-wired connectivity system. Diagnostics have been an important part of what it offers owners.
"Door unlocks and other commands we're beginning to use, such as remote disable and vehicle location, can be great productivity enhancements," says Greg Ross, OnStar's director of commercial experiences.
"Because we are built into the vehicle, we have a privileged connection to the data in the vehicle, and we can build additional applications," Ross says.
"If you've just got an OBD-II port, you've got to do lots of trial and error to figure out what you can do with the data."
Hyundai's Blue Link technology generates a monthly report on a vehicle's health. It allows owners to schedule service from inside the vehicle, among other diagnostic-related functions.
Toyota provides a subscription program through its Lexus luxury brand called Service Connect, which opens diagnostic data to customers. Toyota is expanding the program to include the Camry, starting in the 2018 model year.