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Ford to upgrade, extend warranty on MyFord touchscreen system

Thu, 29 Nov 2012

Ford Motor Co. will upgrade and extend the warranty by two years on its MyFord Touch system following a series of consumer complaints and poor reviews of the automaker's touchscreen entertainment and navigation system.

Ford has improved the voice recognition capability and navigation in what it calls "version 3.5" of the software, Mark Fields, Ford's head of the Americas, said on Wednesday. Ford will offer the first wave of updates to some users on Dec. 10.

Owners with navigation systems will have the opportunity to upgrade software early next year, Ford said.

"We're thinking more and more like not only a car company, but a technology company," Fields said during a roundtable with reporters during the Los Angeles Auto Show. "It's very important to update the vehicles on a more frequent basis particularly around software and applications."

The software upgrade will be offered to more than 1 million owners, Ford said.

Prospective car buyers highly value features like Bluetooth or the ability to stream music from their smart phones, analysts said. But so far, many automakers have struggled to create systems that are effective and intuitive.

In March, Ford upgraded MyFord Touch to address complaints about its slow speed and complexity, but even the update got poor marks from Consumer Reports magazine.

Ford said the latest version of MyFord Touch, which is in production now, can better recognize natural speech and features a more simple Bluetooth pairing process.

Ford is also extending the warranty on the system in its Ford brand vehicles to five years with unlimited miles, up from three years and 36,000 miles.

The software on Lincoln vehicles will now be covered for six years with unlimited miles, up from four years and 50,000 miles.

Ford will offer the latest upgrade to drivers without navigation next month. Vehicle owners with navigation will receive updates in January. Owners of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles will be issued updates sometime during the first quarter, Ford spokesman Alan Hall said.

Vehicle owners can request USB drives from Ford with the updated software, download the software onto their own USB drives or go to their local dealer, Hall said.

'Real time' response

These moves show Ford is "committed to making sure that we are continuing to listen to customers and continuing to act more and more real time like software companies do," Fields said.

The automaker launched its Sync in-vehicle communications and entertainment system, which was jointly developed with Microsoft Corp, in 2007. The Sync software underpins MyFord Touch, which Ford launched in 2010.

Some 45 percent of car buyers said navigation systems that help drivers avoid traffic are very important to their purchase decisions, while 35 percent of drivers said the same of a car's ability to respond to voice commands, according to a survey by IBM to be released soon.

About 30 percent said entertainment systems were very important, particularly buyers between the ages 18 and 29.

Still, efforts by Ford, General Motors and other automakers have been widely panned.

The Ford brand fell to 27th this year in J.D. Power & Associates' new-car quality survey, from fifth two years ago, largely because of complaints with MyFord Touch.

By Automotive News