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MyFord Touch climate control screen
Ford and Lincoln take a steep drive in initial quality rankings due to MyFord Touch

Ford has been basking in the limelight of excellent product reviews from critics and reinvigorated interest from consumers (it didn't file for bankruptcy in tough times like domestic competitors General Motors and Chrysler). However, Ford’s penchant for high-tech gadgetry in its latest crop of vehicles has knocked the company back down on its rear-end according to the latest quality rankings from J.D. Power. 

Ford went from a fifth place ranking in the 2011 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study to a mediocre 23rd place showing this year. Sister-brand Lincoln took a similar nosedive, falling from eighth place all the way down to 17th place this year. Both Ford and Lincoln are now rated below the industry average.

The J.D. Power Initial Quality Study is described as follows:

The Initial Quality Study (IQS) serves as the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality measured at 90 days of ownership. The study is used extensively by manufacturers worldwide to help them design and build better vehicles and by consumers to help them in their vehicle purchase decisions. Initial quality has been shown over the years to be an excellent predictor of long-term durability, which can significantly impact consumer purchase decisions. The study captures problems experienced by owners in two distinct categories—design-related problems and defects and malfunctions.

Not surprisingly, MyFord Touch was the biggest contributor to Ford's fall from grace. Customers complained about the complexity of the system and nagging problems with functionality according to the Chicago Tribune. “People were finding several problems with the system in that it would crash, freeze, black out," said David Sargent, J.D. Power's VP of Global Vehicle Research. “Beyond that, people complained that it was more complex to use than they would like."

“There is an understandable desire to bring these technologies to market quickly," Sargent added. “But automakers must be careful to walk before they run." 

Sargent continued, stating, “Consumers are looking for these touch technologies in vehicles and Ford took the, let’s say, brave decision to be a leader in this area.” 

The problem is that while touch-based interface are fine for smartphones and tablets that get your undivided attention, shifting a vast majority of vehicular secondary controls to a touch screen (which doesn't provide tactile feedback) is a disaster waiting to happen. 

The drop in Ford’s J.D. Power Initial Quality Study ranking was foreshadowed by Consumer Reports earlier this year. The organization roasted MyFord Touch calling it more of a hindrance than a benefit to the redesigned 2012 Ford Explorer and Lincoln MKX. 

Consumer Reports said this in January about the "dueling" dual LCD screens on the new crossovers:

Those screens are controlled by two steering-wheel-mounted five-way switches not unlike those found on a television remote or cell phone.  

If that sounds confusing, it gets worse: The system also recognizes and responds to voice commands. It all adds up to three or four ways to make what should be simple adjustments. 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.  

We hope Ford returns to using tactile buttons and knobs again. Improving the touch-screen interface would also help.

MyFord Touch is also used on higher trim models of the Ford Focus.

Ford took Consumer Reports' criticism to heart and made an effort to provide dealership courses to prospective buyers on how to navigate through the MyFord Touch maze. Apparently, those courses weren't enough to stop the complaints about the infotainment system from pouring in.
 

Sargent concluded his thoughts on the latest study results, stating, "Automakers must not lose their focus on the importance of these models also achieving exceptional quality levels. Expected reliability continues to be the single-most-important reason why new-vehicle buyers choose one model over another."



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IQS Survey
By VahnTitrio on 6/23/2011 3:13:30 PM , Rating: 3
Shouldn't something like this be omitted from a survey? I want to know if a car has mechanical problems or issues, not whether the software is faulty or not. Software can be fixed in 15 minutes at no cost to the end consumer and does not render the car useless. The same cannot be said if say your car came with faulty injectors.




RE: IQS Survey
By tastyratz on 6/23/2011 3:37:12 PM , Rating: 5
its about perception of quality by the consumer, not build quality and reliability which after 90 days is tough to predict. I think its quite volatile here given the drop but again it is all perception.
If the consumer has tons of problems with the radio they will constantly be in a negative state of mind when associating that car to anything. People focus on the bad, and instead of "it is an amazing vehicle" they will focus on "I cant get my bieber!".

Ford clearly was too brave in it's latest implementation and should re-evaluate it. While as DT readers we will know this rating means the radio probably stinks - those who just scan jd power ratings when looking at new cars will only see "piece of crap" checked off


RE: IQS Survey
By omnicronx on 6/23/2011 4:17:21 PM , Rating: 3
The clear problem here is that

1) It is a $1000+ addon that is actually completely independent form SYNC.

2) There are redundent controls (whether they be voice or physical) for anything you can do with the MyFord Touch console.

Don't get me wrong, I know first hand how troublesome it can be, but it really should not have that big of an impact when it comes to this kind of scoring. Especially when you consider some of the vehicles Ford released with the MyTouch system are heads and heals better than their competitors that received higher ratings.

Just seems like a flawed metric to me...


RE: IQS Survey
By tastyratz on 6/23/2011 4:50:56 PM , Rating: 2
A flawed but important metric that is user driven, so there is no real way to provide a similar one without hangups like this. They could always call it initial buyer satisfaction... same end result. They ask new buyers of new cars if they like them, it provides direct feedback against the target audience. If they don't like them even if the reason seems mundane the end result is new vehicle sales leave the owners unhappy. Small things seem monumental to new car owners and this kind of metric will always be influenced by little frustrations.


RE: IQS Survey
By omnicronx on 6/23/2011 7:12:26 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
A flawed but important metric that is user driven They could always call it initial buyer satisfaction... same end result. They ask new buyers of new cars if they like them, it provides direct feedback against the target audience
I disagree, the fact that its user driven is hardly a clear indication of their opinion when the user does not get to decide how their answers are weighted.

If you actually read the press release there is clearly an emphasis on 'the introduction of multimedia technology into their models'. So I ask whom made up these metrics? JD Power? Or some kind of other study to figure out what drivers care about. If its the later I once again question the relevancy of this metric.


RE: IQS Survey
By Fireshade on 6/24/2011 6:17:03 AM , Rating: 2
It's not completely flawed.
The design implementation is a disaster in terms of driving safety:
- no tactile feedback demanding additional visual attention from the driver.
- erratic behaviour - again, demanding additional attention from the driver.
What it boils down to is, that you should pull over before you give commands (by touch or even voice) to be safe. Really, good old unambiguous knobs and dials are safer for your entertainment while driving. And safety should be a priority for any manufacturer in designing in-car controls.


RE: IQS Survey
By cmdrdredd on 6/24/2011 4:01:22 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Really, good old unambiguous knobs and dials are safer for your entertainment while driving. And safety should be a priority for any manufacturer in designing in-car controls.


But that isn't technology and that's the point of the Touch software. They didn't want knobs and all that because everyone can do that. They wanted something that could stand out, that nobody else is doing. That's what they have.

You completely missed the point. The point is to sell cars, and just another Ford with standard controls is nothing special.


RE: IQS Survey
By RussianSensation on 6/23/2011 5:49:57 PM , Rating: 1
Exactly! Initial Quality should strictly deal with problems, parts breaking, gaps in panels, inferior materials quality, rattles/noises, engine vibrations, etc.

Features/Content have nothing to do with build quality of the vehicle. They deal with "value added" quality of the content. For example, if a Honda Civic doesn't have a navigation, there is 1 less problem for it to have. Yet, all these cars are grouped together.

The fact that Ford dropped so much based on 1 feature only highlights how useless J.D. Power Ratings are.

If I am understanding this correctly, the 5th/6th best brands (Mazda / Porsche) each have 100 problems per 100 vehicles or 1 problem per vehicle on average. Nissan is ranked 24th on the list with 117 problems or 1.17 problems per 1 vehicle.

In other words barely 0.17 problems separate a vehicle in the top 5 and the 24th contender. So a 17% difference. This is hardly material. The only standout here is Lexus. All other brands up to Nissan seem almost equally reliable.

Factors such as road conditions, the way a person drives, how well he/she maaintains the said vehicle will have far greater impact on long-term reliability.

People need to really analyze what J.D. Power charts are really showing. The worst brand on the list in 2011 is probably more reliable than 50% of all brands from 2008.


RE: IQS Survey
By mcnabney on 6/23/2011 8:15:51 PM , Rating: 5
The touchscreen system has a habit of reseting itself for no reason. When that happens, you can't control ANYTHING until it finishes rebooting. People will remember that when they fill out a survey.

So yeah, the technological glitches in this system are all about quality and should be considered.


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