Ford Drops Again in J.D. Power Survey Despite Damage Control
Automaker announced yesterday that it expected the brand would be dinged again in this year’s survey.
If you were anywhere near Ford’s Dearborn, Mich., headquarters this afternoon, you could probably hear a collective sigh of relief coming from the Blue Oval folks. That’s because the company’s much-maligned MyFord Touch system wasn’t hammered in J.D. Power and Associates’ 2012 U.S. Initial Quality Study, released today, the way it was last year. Interestingly, though, Ford spun some pre-emptive damage control yesterday in anticipation of the study, because even though MyFord Touch was upgraded recently, the upgrade occurred after the J.D. Powers study took place.
And while the company's poor showing didn't make headlines quite like it did last year, Ford didn't escape unscathed. While in 2011 the manufacturer fell precipitously from fifth to 23rd place in the IQS results, this year the fall was a more modest four spots, to 27th. The drop was largely due to customer complaints about overly complicated infotainment systems -- something that affected manufacturers across the board, not just Ford.
But the upgrade, meant to improve the user experience, was issued after the study was completed, and so Ford, predicting the issue would plague them yet again, had company executives saying yesterday that they expected the brand would be dinged again in the J.D. Power study.
"We expect to do about the same or a little better than last year," Bernie Fowler, Ford's vice president of global quality, said at a media briefing yesterday, ahead of the release of study's results. Although J.D. Power said that for the first time in the study's 26-year history, owners overall reported more problems related to audio, entertainment and navigation systems than in any other vehicle area, Ford fared well -- and even picked up awards for three of its vehicles.
Among the 21 model-level segment awards, Ford earned top IQS marks for the Expedition, Mustang and Taurus. And while J.D Powers didn’t specifically mention MyFord Touch, its Initial Quality Study did indicate an increase in issues with complicated infotainment technology overall: “As manufacturers introduce increasingly sophisticated multimedia systems designed to enhance the ownership experience, owners more frequently cite these systems as a source of quality problems.”
J.D. Power also suggested that this is caused, in part, by the rapid adoption of technology across all vehicle segments. “Until recently, this type of sophisticated technology was found primarily on high-end models” said David Sargent, the firm's vice president of global automotive. “However, over the past few years it has rapidly found its way into the automotive mainstream. For example, in 2012, more than 80 percent of owners indicate that their new vehicle has some form of hands-free technology.”
J.D. Power said that the number of owner-reported problems with “factory-installed hands-free communication devices” jumped 137 percent during the past four years, and that hands-free devices not recognizing commands has become the most oft-reported problem in the industry.
“As smartphones become ubiquitous in the lives of consumers and are ever more sophisticated, expectations about the complementary technologies being offered in new models will only get higher,” Sargent added. “Automakers and suppliers are working hard to meet those expectations with systems intended to make the driving experience safer, more convenient and more entertaining. However, the most innovative technology in the world will quickly create dissatisfaction if owners can’t get it to work.”
That last statement would be an apt description of MyFord Touch. After flying high and leading the industry in infotainment technology with its Sync system, MyFord Touch turned that momentum 180 degrees and was almost universally criticized for being too complicated and buggy. To fix MyFord Touch, Ford sent notices to 377,000 owners regarding the available system upgrade, which is performed using a USB drive and instruction materials. Jim Farley, Ford group vice president of global marketing, sales and service, said the upgrades to the electronics were not available until March -- well after the November-to-February period in which J.D. Power conducted its survey.
Farley said 89 percent of owners have upgraded their systems. He added that 70 percent of those performed it themselves, 20 percent had a dealer do it and 10 percent relied on a friend’s help. Ford said a survey of customers showed they were significantly more satisfied with their vehicle after the upgrade. We did our own quick test of the system with the upgrade (see the video below) and found that it had improved, if slightly.
But judging from Ford’s overall ranking this year, owners and J.D. Power apparently didn’t factor in MyFord Touch’s problems into this year’s survey. We’ll have to wait until next year to see how the MyFord Touch upgrade affects the survey results.
"We won't see the results of the upgrade in this year's results," Farley acknowledged.
I've said it before and I'll say it again.
These JD Power surveys are WORTHLESS!
When it comes to their definition of "quality", there is no differentiation between a blown fuse and a blown engine. Now they add in poeples' incompetence as a defect.
Unfortunately, some consumers actually put credence in these results.
If the only complaint that someone can come up with for an automobile is that their infotainment system is too advanced, then I would say that the company is doing quite well.
Talk about first world problems.
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