Ford’s MyKey Demonstrates Customer Insight

Ford has a new technology called MyKey which is a safety device aimed at teenage drivers. When the car is turned on by a specific MyKey (give to a teenage driver), the car behaves differently. It will debut as standard equipment on the 2010 Ford Focus coupe and will works its way into other Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles. Here are some of the features of MyKey:

  • limit top speed of vehicle to 80 miles per hour
  • sound a chime whenever the vehicle travels above 45, 55 or 65 miles per hour
  • cap the volume on the car stereo
  • mute the radio and chime repeatedly until the driver is buckled up
  • light up low-fuel warning earlier than normal

My take: I’m not sure if this particular feature will sell more cars, especially given the economy, but it represents an excellent example of the first principle of Experience-Based Differentiation: “Obsess about customer needs, not product features.”

What’s so good about MyKey? Ford thought about the needs of a specific segment of customers (parents of teenagers) — beyond the usual automotive features like style, speed, price, and fuel economy. By looking at a more comprehensive set of needs, the car maker was able to identify novel features that appeal to that segment.

The bottom line: Digital features require durable manufacturers to know more about customers.

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

3 thoughts on “Ford’s MyKey Demonstrates Customer Insight”

  1. hmm… that’s like saying all teens drive like maniacs, and putting a restriction like that will only make them “rebel” when they get a car they can go fast in and blare the radio in and not wear their seatbelt in… It’s like giving them a restriction, and then they go “oh boy! no more restriction” when they get a car without the MyKey. The kids will hate it. Is it safer? Possibly. But in the end when they don’t have a MyKey… then is it safer?

    Then again, some teens will get into the habit of having it and forget that other cars don’t have that system, and they will be fine, but 7 out of 10 will probably get overexcited.

  2. Hidingalone: I agree with your concerns. I liked the concept (looking at needs of a segment of customers and developing solutions from beyond the normal product features), but am not sure about the specific features. Thanks for your comment!

  3. OK. So I’ll let my kid drive like a maniac today because he might do it tomorrow in someone else’s car. Where’s the logic? Take care of your kid today. The system is not requiring a kid to drive 25 in a 50. And annoying the crap out of them to buckle up is common sense. If there is one thing I want my kid to do when he or she (I have both) gets behind the wheel its buckle up. Sign me up for MyKey!

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