Monday, March 9, 2009

Ford Work Solutions Available for 2009 F-150 and Super Duty Trucks, Retrofit Kits Coming for Older Models

Posted by Mike Levine | March 5, 2009

Ford Work Solutions is now available for 2009 Ford F-150 and F-250 to F-550 Super Duty pickups and chassis-cab trucks. The suite of work productivity applications includes an in-dash computer with high-speed wireless internet and a printer; “Crew Chief,” which monitors and helps route fleets of trucks in real time; and “Tool Link,” which uses radio frequency tag readers in the truck to keep track of tools so they aren’t left behind at home or a job site.

"It's available from the factory today when you order a vehicle," said William Frykman, Ford Work Solutions business and product development manager. "In April it will be available as a dealer-installed option on an '09 vehicle, so if somebody finds an '09 vehicle on the lot that they want it installed on, it could be available with certain series restrictions."

Computer-dependent applications like Crew Chief, Tool Link and wireless internet cannot be installed in certain high-trim F-Series models — like the new Platinum F-150 — that are optioned with Ford's consumer-oriented Sync system. Sync uses a similar but incompatible computer system.

But there's good news for some earlier F-Series truck owners: A retrofit kit is coming for previous-generation 2004-08 F-150 pickups and for 2008 or newer Super Duty pickups.

"We're working on a retrofit kit that would be installed where the architecture is the same, so it would be backward-compatible," Frykman said. "For Super Duty today it can go in an '08 truck. The F-150 needs some modifications, but it could at least go back to '04 F-150. [The kit] isn't available today, but we're working on it. It should be available by the third quarter of 2009."

Ford is looking forward, though, as well as backward.

"As we've launched version 1.0 today, we're already working on the next generation," Frykman said. "What you'll see is continued evolution of the products that we have today. For example, we could potentially take Tool Link and report offboard on a secure website, not just onboard the truck in the in-dash computer. And expect to see some new products as well. We're here at NTEA to look at other opportunities."

There are two costs associated with Ford Work Solutions: a one-time hardware cost and a monthly connection fee.

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