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Ford unveils telematics system with Vodafone

Ford has this month launched an in-car telematics system in Germany that could have major implications for the accident repair and car servicing sector.

The voice-activated system, a £532 option on the Focus, was developed with UK communications group Vodafone. It uses integrated GSM cellular and global positioning system (GPS) technology to provide emergency and roadside assistance, and traffic information. Ford will roll out the system to other European countries, including the UK, by the end of the year.

Ford of Europe president and chief executive officer David Thursfield said: “Telematics gives us a new opportunity to satisfy customers. We anticipate that within five years nearly all new Ford vehicles will be fitted with some type of telematics system.”

Aftermarket experts believe the system could take business away from independent bodyshops.

One pointed to Ford's stake in North-west based Howard Basford, and said: “The telematics system could eventually be used to tie accident repair and servicing business to Ford's franchised dealers.

“Once the emergency services have been contacted, the system could inform the nearest Ford bodyshop, which would collect and repair the car.”

The system could be further expanded to provide vehicle diagnostics, he added. This would inform the driver and the local Ford dealer when there was a fault, or when servicing was due, tying the car to the franchised network.

Peugeot revealed its telematics system, available on the 307, at the Geneva motor show. General Motors launched its version, OnStar, last year.

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