Ford to Send Owners Software Fix for Dashboard Touch Screens

Ford Motor Co. (F), which has plunged in quality rankings, on March 8 will begin sending more than 300,000 owners of the Ford Explorer, Edge, Focus and Lincoln MKX a USB flash drive loaded with new software to fix problems with MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch systems, the company said.

“We know that there’s a group of customers that reported that there were features of MyFord Touch that were not working properly and we’ve taken that feedback seriously,” Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s product-development chief, said today at a briefing in Dearborn, Michigan. “We expect these improvements will put us back on track in the quality rankings.”

Glitches with the touch screens controlling audio, phone, climate and navigation systems were one reason Ford fell the most of any car company in Consumer Reports’ annual Automaker Report Cards last month. Ford slid to 10th place, from fifth a year earlier, in the magazine’s testing of braking, handling, comfort, convenience, safety and fuel economy.

“Subpar reliability of some new vehicles, due largely to the troublesome MyFord Touch infotainment system and Power-Shift automatic transmission, hurt its report-card grade,” the Yonkers, New York, magazine said in a Feb. 28 statement.

In October, Ford fell to 20th from 10th in annual reliability rankings from Consumer Reports. The technology also was blamed by J.D. Power & Associates for Ford falling to 23rd from fifth in its 2011 new-car quality survey. Ford Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally made quality a pillar of his turnaround plan for the second-largest U.S. automaker.

Choice for Buyers

Consumers can install the new software themselves, which takes about 60 minutes, or take it to a dealer for assistance, Ford said. The software upgrade, which dealers received today, is aimed to prevent system crashes, the automaker said. Ford redesigned more than 1,000 screens on the system, to make buttons and graphics larger and more responsive.

“Some of the customer symptoms with black screens and resets, that’s been eliminated,” Graydon Reitz, Ford’s global director of electronics and electrical systems, said at the briefing. “We’ve gone through an exhaustive testing program with this performance upgrade to make sure it’s ready.”

Ford enhanced the system to make it compatible with tablet computers such as Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPad. The software upgrade enables Ford’s voice-activated Sync system, developed with Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), to read audiobooks to drivers from tablets, Kuzak said.

“This is more than just an update; this is a substantial upgrade,” Kuzak said. “We’ve learned and we’re learning how to prove out the software.”

Ford said in November it expected the download time would be about 45 minutes. The company added more content and changed additional screens and functions in response to feedback received from 1,700 employees and dealers, Kuzak said.

Ford fell 2 percent to $12.46 at the close in New York. The shares have risen 16 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Keith Naughton in Dearborn, Michigan, at knaughton3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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