Ford Plummets In Initial Quality Rankings, MyFord Touch To Blame

June 23, 2011

In 2010, Ford was ranked fifth overall in J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Survey (IQS). In 2011, the automaker plunged to twenty-third overall, slotting in just above Nissan but just below Ram. Even luxury-brand Lincoln took a significant hit in initial quality ratings, falling from eight place in 2010 to seventeenth place in 2011.

Does this indicate that Ford’s product quality has taken a turn for the worse? No, says J.D. Power and Associates; in fact, the opposite is true. Ford continues to score well in regards to manufacturing defects and received praise on their sustained manufacturing quality. The automaker even won two initial quality awards, one each for the redesigned Ford Taurus and F-150.

So where is the problem? Ford received bad marks for their MyFord Touch telematics system, which critics and consumers alike have panned for being overly complex. Adding to consumers’ discontent is their SYNC automation system, which relies on voice commands to allow hands-free operation of climate, navigation, audio and mobile phone functions. While problems with both systems have been reported, many of the complaints stem from consumers who simply grow frustrated with the systems’ complexity.

While consumers want to embrace touchscreen and voice command systems, learning to operate them is something else entirely. BMW learned about customer dissatisfaction impacting quality ratings back in 2006, when the public panned the automaker for their iDrive vehicle interface.

Ford is taking steps to correct the problem, with dealers now offering classes on the operation of MyFord Touch and SYNC. As with any new and emerging technologies, there will be always be a reluctance to change the “conventional” way of doing things. BMW bounced back from poor quality scores over their iDrive, and we’re guessing that Ford will fare much better as consumers become more familiar with the MyTouch interface.

[J.D. Power and Associates, via The New York Times]  

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