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Woes blamed on less than stellar DCT shifting and MyFord touch

After years of being ranked as one of the most reliable automakers in the industry, Ford’s recent use of in-car infotainment systems have caused it to plummet in quality rankings. Consumer Reports indicates that only a couple years ago Ford was in the top 10 among brands in its predicted reliability scores with over 90% of its models being average or better. However, in the most recent Consumer Reports reliability scores, Ford has dropped to number 27 out of 28 in the survey. Studies from JD Power have also noted a drop in Ford’s ranking.

Japanese automakers are taking advantage of Ford's decline with Scion, Toyota, and Lexus sweeping the top three spots. Those three Toyota brands were followed by Mazda, Subaru, Honda, and Acura with all models produced by the top seven brands offering average or better reliability.

Multiple factors contributed to Ford's significant decline in Consumer Reports rankings. Consumer Reports has shown no love for Ford's MyFord Touch technology and its survey participants obviously agree. Several of Ford's new vehicles -- including the Explorer, Fiesta, and Focus -- had more problems than normal according to Consumer Reports. Another significant contributing factor to Ford's decline in the rankings is three of its historically reliable models, the Escape, Fusion, and Lincoln MKZ are not included in the current analysis because they were all redesigned for 2013.

MyFord Touch

Consumer Reports director of testing Jake Fisher notes that despite attempts to improve MyFord Touch, the system, which is featured in many Ford vehicles, continues to confuse customers. Fisher also says that customers continue to complain about rough shifting on Ford six-speed dual-clutch PowerShift transmissions.

“They’ve put out some updates to try to address some of those problems for both the transmissions and the infotainment controls, but it doesn’t seem to be enough,” Fisher said.

Despite Ford plummeting in the Consumer Reports reliability rankings, the company posted a massive profit for Q3 2012. Ford racked up $1.63 billion in profit during the quarter, marking a slight decline from $1.65 billion earned the same quarter of 2011. Ford had a pre-tax operating profit $2.2 billion amounting to $.40 per share. Analysts had anticipated a gain of $.30 per share.

"The Ford team delivered a best-ever third quarter, driven by record results in North America and the continued strength of Ford Credit," said Alan Mulally, Ford president and CEO, in a statement. "While we are facing near-term challenges in Europe, we are fully committed to transforming our business in Europe by moving decisively to match production to demand, improve revenue through new products and grow a stronger brand, improve our cost efficiencies and take advantage of opportunities to profitably grow our business."

However, things don't look is rosy for Ford in Europe with the company reporting a loss of $460 million during the quarter marking a loss of about $1 billion in Europe this year alone. Ford has previously announced that it expects to lose about $1.5 billion in Europe during 2012 and 2013. The automaker plans to restructure its European operations and shed workers.

Sources: Consumer Reports, Free Press, Detroit News, Detroit News

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By dtgoodwin on 10/30/2012 11:20:33 AM , Rating: 2
I rented a Focus this past week. My first experience with PowerShift as well as MyTouch. As a techie at heart, if it takes me 10 minutes to figure out how to get all the basic controls down, pair my phone, and get comfortable enough to drive away, that's a mighty long time. Worse, if I have to think about the actions to use because it's not well laid out, then it's even worse. I can't imagine any member of my family learning how to use it (non-technical), and being happy with it. I liked the concept, but it's trying to hard and non succeeding.

Basic voice bluetooth always worked great. It better. iPhone audio, whether by bluetooth or USB was very hit or miss. Bluetooth would always required changing the method of connectivity to something else and then back to bluetooth to stream, even though my phone and MyTouch thought they were connected. Via USB about 1/2 the time would index through artist "A" then say there were too many songs (12 GB) and not index any more. Other times, it was fine. The sound system itself was not the premium, and that is an understatement.

The powershift transmission was actually pretty good once it got moving. Engaging first gear was very rough. My vehicle had 22K miles on it, but judging by the fuel economy, probably hadn't been driven like most rentals, though the clutch was in very rough shape. It's engagement was anything but smooth. On any surface with limited traction, regardless of how light the throttle was pressed, a small amount of wheelspin was almost guaranteed.

On a very positive note, while I am not a fan of Ford in general, the car seemed well put together and in 65 MPH driving I got an indicated 45+ MPG. I believe it to be pretty accurate. I couldn't absolutely validate it, but the number I ended up with, 35, was validated when I calculated it at the pump filling it as much as I could.

Final note. I could never bring myself to own such an ugly car. Seems like there are a hundred different angles going every different direction but lacking any style, both inside and outside. And my least favorite was the bright white overhead LED lighting. I get it, we are going that route. I loved the ambient lighting in the door pulls, door pockets, under foot, but PLEASE, leave warm, soft incandescent lighting for general cabin lighting.

RE: Confusing
By bill.rookard on 10/30/2012 11:57:02 AM , Rating: 2
I have owned Fords pretty much most of my life and I hate to say it, but I agree with some of the styling issues you mentioned.

Fiesta: Eh - so-so but its a little too 'busy'.
Focus: Better, not quite as busy and the proportions seem better.
Fusion: Oh my goodness - love it. Great design IMHO.
Escape: Exact opposite, really don't like it, especially from the back. I actually liked the smaller 'mini-Explorer' look far better.
Taurus: Thumbs up for this one too. Very good stance, not overworked. Nice looking vehicle.
Mustang: waiting for the redesign, so my judgement is being held until it's released.

My point is that half the cars that they're designing have fallen into the 'not so great' category.

On the broader quesiton of their reliability, I have never had a 'real' problem with a Ford engine, transmission, or rear axle. Occasionally after the 100+k mile mark I've had some minor malfunctions (other than 'wear/tear') such as an alternator, but nothing ever 'major' which required an engine transplant or transmission replacement.

So why the tanking reliability then due to a simple infotainment system? Is the car not going to start? Not going to stop? Fall apart? It reminds me much of the debate over 'defects' where a defect could be simply something 'squeaking'. If I were Ford, I would lose the electronic wizardry and do the following:

1) Scrap the electronic controls for everything. Nice, solid mechanical buttons/dials/switches all the way around. No touchscreens. They're simpler to use, simpler to fix, and remember the age old maxim: The more complicated something is, the easier it is to malfunction.

2) Offer a three levels of sound/infotainment. a) Basic radio. b) True 'premium sound'. c) Premium sound w/ nav. All those can be stand-alone systems which means should something go wrong, it's easier to replace.

3) Do better exterior designs. Get the design team for the Fusion to go over the Fiesta/Focus/Escape. Yes, compromises would have to be made due to the platform and sizing, but they did a knockout job on their project while the Fiesta team and the Escape team for the most part screwed the pooch. They certainly couldn't do any -worse-.

RE: Confusing
By Dr of crap on 10/30/2012 3:56:45 PM , Rating: 2
AND those would be YOUR views on the Ford line of vehicles.

It like an award show - it's all subjective, you liked it some don't. Telling me you liked or didn't a car doesn't affect me or anyone else in anyway. Everyone has to experience it themsleves.

Same with CR. They can state what they find as having done a ton of reviews, but if you had a 15 year old car for instantance, ANY new car would be fine and you'd find no problmes with ANY of them. Reviewing new car after new car they forget how a "normal" person experiences cars, that being maybe a newer one after 7 plus years, not every year.

RE: Confusing
By Spuke on 10/30/2012 12:26:41 PM , Rating: 2
My experiences with the Focus, Edge, and Explorer are in stark contrast to Consumer Reports and even your report (Explorer was a rental...others were test drives). I was actually shocked at how well the Focus and Edge drove. Transmission shifted just fine in the Focus. No herky jerky stuff even at low speeds and partial throttle. The other transmissions were fine too but they're not DCT's. I found MyFord very easy to use (Focus and Explorer...I was expecting otherwise based on reports). Even the salesman had no problem using MyFord (Focus and Edge) and explaining its functions.

As far as as looks, I think the Focus is the best looking hatch on the road by far. I don't care too much for the sedan version though.

RE: Confusing
By Spuke on 10/30/2012 12:28:43 PM , Rating: 2
Oops. The Edge I drove did not have MyFord. Just the Explorer and Focus. My mistake.

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