Ford’s new SmartLink plug-in modem brings older models up to snuff

It goes for $16.99 a month for owners of 2010-2017 Ford vehicles

A new device will allow millions of older-model Ford vehicles to be upgraded to include the same connectivity perks found in newer vehicles.

The FordPass SmartLink device will enable features like a 4G LTE WiFi, smartphone integration of key fob features (remote engine start, lock and unlock, vehicle health and security alerts), and vehicle location tracking. It'll allow users to set "geo-fences" around certain areas to monitor, via email or text message, when the vehicle enters them — perfect for parents of mischievous teenagers. It also resets to the settings the last time the vehicle was in use, meaning the heated seats will reactivate if you left that feature on.

The device, which is about the size of a deck of cards and plugs into the onboard diagnostics port below the steering wheel, will become available to owners of 2010 through 2017 model-year Ford vehicles. It will be available in the coming weeks. Ford is working to educate its dealer network about the new option, since they will be the ones selling and installing it.

FordPass Smartlink will be available for $16.99 a month, plus installation fee, for 24 months. That includes the cost of the device, telematics services between the vehicle and Ford, and a 30-day or 1-gigabyte trial (whichever comes first) of the service through Verizon, the exclusive data provider, meaning Internet service is also extra.

Close observers of Ford may notice that the company first announced SmartLink back in early 2017. But Dennis Carnevale, FordPass SmartLink marketing manager, said the company decided to make the device compatible with the FordPass mobile app, which was already integrated with its embedded vehicle modems.

"From a customer experience point of view, it's seamless," Carnevale said.

Ford says its plans to have all of its vehicles built with similar connectivity by 2019.

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