Ford Extends Warranties on Touch-Screen Dashboard Controls

Ford Motor Co., beset with quality problems with its touch-screen dashboard controls, is extending the warranties on the feature and offering more than 1 million owners another software upgrade to make it work more smoothly.

Ford is extending the warranty on its MyFord Touch controls to five years from three, Mark Fields, the automaker’s president of the Americas, told reporters today at the Los Angeles Auto Show. For Lincoln models, the warranty is being extended to six years, Fields said.

A software upgrade that improves voice commands, navigation functions and connecting a mobile phone to the car’s controls will become available on Ford’s website the week of Dec. 10, Fields said. For owners with navigation systems, the upgrade will be available early next year, he said. Ford’s quality scores have plunged as it has struggled to get the bugs out of its system. This is the second software upgrade this year.

“When you look at the version we introduced back in the springtime, in the surveys we’ve done, that increased our customer satisfaction by over 20 points,” Fields said. “We’ve seen an improvement from the upgrade we did in the spring and we expect to see another improvement as we introduce this version.”

Fields said Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford is extending the warranties on the technology to give consumers more “confidence” in the feature.

Distracting Drivers

MyFord Touch has been criticized for performing poorly and distracting drivers. Ford’s namesake brand fell seven spots to second-to-last place in Consumer Reports’ annual auto-reliability survey last month. The Ford brand fell to 27th this year in Westlake Village, California-based J.D. Power & Associates’ new-car quality survey, from fifth two years ago.

Ford in March sent a software upgrade to 377,000 customers with the MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch dashboard controls. The upgrade, which included faster touch responses, simpler graphics, enhanced voice recognition and better phone controls, didn’t arrive in time to improve this year’s J.D. Power scores.

Ford’s redesigned Fusion sedan has the latest version of MyFord Touch, and the automaker has added regular control knobs for radio volume and tuning and for heat and air conditioning.

“We’re thinking more and more like not only a car company, but also a technology company,” Fields said. “It’s very important to update the vehicles on a more frequent basis, particularly around software and applications because consumers are used to their smartphones.”

While improving the quality of the new technology, Ford must be mindful not to compromise safety and distract drivers, Fields also said.

“It’s very clear, particularly when you look at younger consumers, for them, staying connected in their lives is hugely important no matter where they go,” Fields said. “We want to make sure we insure safety and integration into the rest of the vehicle. Just plugging in a smartphone and allowing that to do a lot of operations of the vehicles, there could be some issues with that.”

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