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Mulally Says Fixes Coming for MyFord Touch

By James B. Treece, Automotive News

By AutoWeek Nov 7, 2011 9:42AM

MyFord Touch, the complex infotainment system found on new Ford and Lincoln models, has caused Ford's quality ratings to slip. (Photo by Ford.)

Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally vows that revised versions of the Sync and MyFord Touch infotainment systems will be simpler and more reliable and says more improvements are coming.

He also says Ford has tightened its quality-control process for developing those systems' software. That appears aimed at avoiding the glitches that have dogged the new technologies and hurt Ford's standings in quality and reliability studies.

Told of anecdotal tales of shoppers who want to buy a Ford but won't if they have to take MyFord Touch, Mulally replied, "I think that when they see the new upgraded versions of it, they might change their mind."

Early next year, Ford will send owners of vehicles with MyFord Touch or MyLincoln Touch a flash drive that they can use to install an upgrade without going to a dealership.

In a wide-ranging interview with Automotive News, Mulally also said:

-- He sees "continuing expansion" for the U.S. economy through the rest of this year and next. He declined to predict auto sales, "until we get through the fourth quarter."

Europe, on the other hand, has "a lot of uncertainty" in its outlook, Mulally said. He predicted "zero to slightly improving" economic growth there next year, with results "very mixed among the countries."

-- The recently signed UAW contract will make Ford "fully competitive" with transplant factories over the four-year term of the contract, "because the gap will just continue to close."

"We are now continuing to invest" in U.S. factories and jobs, he said. "This has reversed many years of getting smaller and smaller."

But he disagreed with recent comments by Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne that the UAW contract's two-tier wage structure is not viable over the long run.

In defense of the two-tier wages, Mulally said: "I think the agreement that we have with the UAW and the employees has enabled us to be competitive, and I think it's good."

Mulally praised Sync, MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch and said that Ford won't slow its plans to install the systems in its vehicles.

The company plans to make the systems standard on future Lincolns, and to include them on 80 percent of the Ford-brand lineup by 2014, in some cases as standard equipment.

"We haven't changed anything about our strategy on introducing it," Mulally said.

A driver can use Sync and MyFord Touch to operate the audio, temperature and other controls and place cell phone calls by means of either an 8-inch touch screen in the center console or voice commands.

Mulally strongly defended the systems, saying they enhance safety by keeping drivers' "hands on the wheel and eyes on the road." He said many consumers are fans of the systems.

For consumers, those technologies are "a reason to buy," Mulally said. "With 50 percent of the people, it's part of the decision to purchase a car. Seventy percent of the people that use Sync and MyFord recommend it to their friends."

But Mulally conceded that Ford "got feedback early" from consumers "very clearly that in some areas maybe it was a little too sophisticated with maybe a little too many options."

"We have most of the issues identified, we have fixes in place and we've already started" installing those fixes, he said, adding that more improvements will follow.

He compared Ford's response to that feedback to the ways consumer-technology companies improve electronic goods.

"Are there things that we learned from that? Absolutely. That's what a technology company has got to be really good at, too," he said: Introduce the technology, "but also stay real close to customers and continually improve it."

The negative feedback has gone beyond individual consumers complaining to dealers.

In January, Consumer Reports magazine said it won't recommend the 2011 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers because of low test scores -- mainly the result of MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch technology.

The magazine called the technology "a complicated distraction while driving." It said "first-time users might find it impossible to comprehend. The system did not always perform as promised."

In a J.D. Power and Associates survey released in June that tracks problems reported during the first 90 days of ownership, the Ford brand fared worse than the industry average for the first time since the 2006 model year.

Power said the main problems were MyFord Touch and fuel-saving six-speed automatic transmissions that seem to hesitate in an unfamiliar way when drivers shift gears or accelerate.

Originally posted by Automotive News (subscription required)

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Nov 7, 2011 2:16PM

Ford's Mytouch and Sync (AKA Stink) systems are product flops.  FoMoCo has ventured into territories that they have no business in especially from a company that can't make a cruise control module that won't set your garage on fire.  I have the Stink system in my Edge  and it ain't worth a darn.  A basic smart phone is way superior in navigating.

IMO, car companies are putting way too much expensive tech into autos that are only on the road for 7 to 10 years.  How about just making a really good & durable product for several thousand less than the tech laden counterpart.  I dunno about everyone else but I don't need a screen to adjust the A/C controls or radio.  Ford has gone too far and it has bitten them. (again). 

Nov 7, 2011 2:04PM
Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I really think that all this technology is becoming too much of a focus in the automotive industry. Not that I think technology is bad, in fact when used in proper amounts it can really improve the driving experience. But the ability to update facebook/twitter, read out and send texts, lengthy command processes to preform simple tasks (i.e. climate control, audio volume), and technology for the sake of technology only take away from the driving experience and don't offer any real advantages over the old systems. 

I'll give you an example: I drive a 2003 Saab 9-3. It has an on board computer that lets me know if my washer fluid is getting low, if my brake light is out, etc. I love it. It's stuff I'd need to know but wouldn't be able to determine from behind the wheel. It's also not distracting. If I want to turn on my A/C on and select a certain temperature I can do that easily, often without taking my eyes off the road once I've developed a certain amount of muscle memory for the knobs and other UI. With newer cars using touch screens, such as MyFord Touch, I can't develop muscle memory and must go through a few more loops to preform these simple tasks. Each of these loops also requiring that I take my eyes off the road. Sure touchscreens are cool, but they don't offer any real advantage over the knobs of "past."

It's a shame, because this technology arms race means that vehicle manufacturers are trying to cram as much tech into a car so they can stay competitive and appear on the cutting edge in their commercials. What's also a shame is the way manufacturers package this equipment. I've had my eye on the new ford Focus and have consequently been on Ford's website and built the vehicle so many times I could practically recite the trim levels and their associated packages. Now I like to have leather seats and a premium audio system, both of which are available in the SEL and Titanium trim levels of the new 2012 Focus, but they force me to "upgrade" to MyFord Touch. This adds extra cost and a software downgrade (in my opinion).

Now I don't like how Consumer Reports rates a vehicle's reliability based on optional equipment and will base a recommendation on that. Sure Japanese imports like Toyota score well, but what they gain in reliability they lack in innovation. I'll grant that the powertrain is built like a tank, but I would never recommend a vehicle with only 4 forward gears to anybody. It's a technology that Toyota has been using for nearly 3 decades and should not be in any modern vehicle. Toyota also lacks modern amenities that if they had, would up their reported problems and put them closer to domestics and European imports.

I'll grant that the issues with the Focus' dual-clutch transmission is a legitimate concern, and it demonstrates the danger in buying the first generation of any technology. I hope Ford corrects it for the next model year, because with Mazda's new Skyactiv technology in their Mazda3, I am looking away from the Focus for the first time.
Nov 9, 2011 3:08PM
@taurus sho owner

I agree with you 100% that new technologies can be great, my only issue is with the user interface. To me, technology is great, but I don't buy new technology just because it's new. It has to be enough of a leap forward and improve upon whatever it's replacing enough to justify that replacement.

Touch screens certainly offer some advantages over the conventional analog  methods, but there are some areas where I believe they don't belong, such as in automobiles. Better drivers are more focused drivers and the less they divert their vision from the road the better. I'll take a well designed center console over a touch screen any day. 

By the same merit, texting while driving isn't dangerous because of the ends, but rather the means, and I feel the same way about touchscreens. Cool on your phone. Cool on your tablet. Potentially dangerous in your vehicle. 

Voice activation is a good way to get around this, but it isn't as reliable or tactile. People with thicker accents may have trouble using the system and should the system mishear a command, it could actuate or adjust other parameters. It isn't deal-breaking, just annoying for a few people. 

Overall I prefer voice activation to touchscreens in vehicles, and from most reports the voice recognition in MyFord Touch is one of the more robust iterations on the market.  

Adaptive Cruise Control is also a wonderful new technology, and it's nice to see the Blue Oval adapting it to its vehicles. 
Nov 7, 2011 2:06PM
Ford also has a huge problem with the manual six speed transmission in the Mustangs.  Just like the past,  once Ford gets  your money,  you are screwed.    Ford customers with defective parts are just stuck because Ford will not put the upgraded parts in until the defective parts run out.  I know from experience.
Nov 7, 2011 1:05PM
My thought is, if they are having problems now, the next generation will have even more problems. I like technology but, if it's not done CORRECTLY then no one wants it. Also, do previous owners get an upgrade if Ford replaces the old Myford for free?
Nov 8, 2011 1:24PM
I realize that some people are afraid of new technologies, but it is just plain wrong to say it is more difficult to operate functions with ford sync than "the old way". All I do is press one button on the steering wheel and say set temperature 69 degrees. I don't need to remember where the buttons on the dash are located. I press the same button and say destination home and it sets the nav to get me home. The new technology also allows me to set the cruise control and the vehicle will slow down by itself to maintain a safe distance behind the car in front. The technology is very useful for many drivers.
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