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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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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By Targon on 6/24/2011 8:31:19 PM , Rating: 1
UI has very little to do with what most would consider the initial quality testing. If you consider it, Apple hasn't really updated their UI for over a decade on the desktop, and on the portable devices, you are stuck in a stagnant pile of icons all over the screen. Yea, that's a great UI, where you have to hunt through all those icons to find what you are looking for. Even with the ability to group apps into folders(which desktops have had since the first GUI environments), it is still just a bunch of icons on the screen.

Ford made the mistake of releasing their touchscreen system too soon, but what percentage of cars come with the affected system? The UI itself isn't bad, and using voice controls does wonders for being able to do stuff without even trying to find what to press on the touch screen.


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