Ford’s Quality Hit: Too Much Distracting Tech

June 27th, 2011

2011 Ford Edge SEL MyTouch screen

It had to happen. Consumers, disgusted or confused by Ford’s proliferation of its Sync and MyTouch systems, complained in sufficient numbers that Ford’s quality rating, as measured by the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, fell from 5th place last year to 23rd this year.

Problems with these hands-free systems have accelerated by nearly 240 percent.

The Power study is an industry benchmark in determining car quality as perceived by consumers during the first 90 days of ownership. Lexus came out on top this year.

Now, I have never driven one of these Ford tech-mobiles, but the combination of touch-sensitive buttons; knobs that twist, pull and push; touch-screen choices in small and changing multiple fonts; steering-wheel-mounted controls; swipes and pushes with the finger; and voice commands that don’t work—how could all this crap not distract one from driving? And sometimes the system balks.

Here’s a 9-minute explanation of what MyTouch does and how it works that, I guarantee, will make you tune out by minute 3.

Automotive News says Ford recognizes the problem and is seeking solutions from its partners Best Buy and Microsoft. That’s a bit like asking Republicans to suggest new tax revenue strategies, but anyhow…

The company is going to improve online instruction, upgrade software, add more Sync experts to the call-center staff and pay dealers for more and better customer training. Mostly, it will be up to the dealers to get their salespeople trained. We’ll see how well that works out.

As Consumer Reports said,

None of the options works as well or is as easy to use as old-fashioned knobs and switches, and they can be more time-consuming and distracting to operate. First-time users might find it impossible to comprehend.

But Ford is continuing to push the electronic envelope, with accident-avoidance devices and, as we reported, in-car monitoring of your health (blood glucose, heartbeat irregularities, etc.), all in the pursuit of profit, all at the expense of distracted driving.

Are you for or against the proliferation of electronic devices in today’s cars? Can Ford fix its Sync and MyTouch problems?

—jgoods

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  1. Randy
    June 30th, 2011 at 07:53 | #1

    Every time I go on the road I see people who are driving badly because they are texting, phoning, reading, playing with their computer or baby, eating or even playing with their naughty bits. The government will get involved because our current generation of electronic addicts will buy this stuff and use it in their cars.

  2. June 28th, 2011 at 17:10 | #2

    My brother inlaw has Fords with this equipment as company cars it allways fails while under warranty but how much more distracting would a failing system be.

  3. jgoods
    June 27th, 2011 at 18:47 | #3

    @ Randy
    It is really tiresome that we have to depend on the government to police this stuff, but you are probably right. However, I do think some customers will renounce this electronic garbage and perhaps in sufficient numbers to cause Ford to rethink. The J.D. Power quality drop may finally send these idiots a strong message. The DOT can also do a whole lot more than its present ridiculous public education campaign: http://www.cargurus.com/blog/2011/06/20/better-and-worse-ways-to-fight-distracted-driving.

  4. Randy
    June 27th, 2011 at 18:32 | #4

    Money makes the world go around,
    the world go around,
    the world go around,
    money makes the world go around.
    It makes the world go ’round.

    A mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound
    A buck or a pound
    A buck or a pound
    Is all that makes the world go around,
    That clinking clanking sound
    Can make the world go ’round.

    “Money trumps …..” Even George W. Bush couldn’t bring himself to say “everything” yet he knew it was true. Ford and other automakers will continue stuffing this distracting stuff into cars until:
    1. The courts make them stop with seven figure lawsuit awards.
    2. The government rule makers make them stop.
    3. Buyers make them stop.

    Since buyers are the ones paying for all this crap (and texting and cell phoning while driving) I’d say no. 3 isn’t likely, but the first two are. NHTSA and IIHS need to develop a repeatble driver distraction evaluation test that this kind of content must pass before it can be included in a vehicle, and if they did, you’d probably find that most of the current content would be outlawed including navigation systems, touch screens, ALL internet connectivity, and fancy climate controls. Who wants do die on the front end of a Ford F150 because the driver was updating her facebook status from “available” to “deceased?”

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