Ford Doubles Down on MyFord Touch, Will Extend Warranties
Ford’s beleaguered MyFord Touch system will continue to live on, but Ford has tacitly acknowledged that it’s causing the company serious problems. Due to falling satisfaction scores, Ford is extending the warranty of MyFord Touch from 3 years/36,000 miles to 5 years/unlimited miles. The comparable MyLincoln Touch will see its warranty stretch from 4 years/50,000 miles to 6 years/unlimited miles. Warranty coverage on the system includes periodic software updates. In addition, Ford will make a software update available to owners to bring their systems up to version 3.5. This is the second major update that has been provided to MyFord Touch owners.
As any person who follows the car business even casually knows, Ford has made quite a push over the past few years to be a leader in in-car technology. Beginning with SYNC, which had beautiful simplicity and good-for-the-times voice recognition and device compatibility, Ford found that buyers were drawn to its brand mainly by the class-leading technology that it was offering.
Unfortunately, Ford pushed the envelope too far with the debut of MyFord Touch, its enhanced version of SYNC. MFT eliminated most physical buttons and knobs and replaced them with a touchscreen that was cluttered, slow, glitchy, and crashed with alarming frequency. MFT has been proliferating throughout the Ford and Lincoln lineups since 2010, and is now available in narly every model, including the bread-and-butter F-Series trucks.
The thing is, MyFord Touch has absolutely killed Ford’s quality and customer satisfaction scores. Quality surveys today aren’t looking only for things that fall off the new car, but also for things that frustrate consumers, are hard to use, or are design defects. MyFord Touch may not be defective, but it’s violating the prime directive of automotive user interfaces, which is “Keep It Simple.” Instead of adding simplicity (removing complexity?), MyFord Touch removes buttons and adds to the numbers of menus and steps required in order to perform routine tasks. While changing the fan speed used to involve the press of one button, it now requires accessing a sub-menu under Climate.
And, you can no longer make many adjustments without looking away from the road. If you wanted to change to a radio preset in the old days, you reached over and felt a button (and perhaps could tell if you were touching the fourth or fifth button) and pressed it, and the radio reacted instantly. With MyFord Touch, you have to change the touchscreen to audio mode, locate the button on the screen, press it, wait a second for the system to lag through its reaction, then get your new radio station.
For a good example of how the system’s responsiveness needs improvement, try dialing a phone number using the touchscreen on a MyFord Touch-equipped car. The numbers require a firm press and do not respond the instant that you press them. Now do the same exercise on a smartphone, and the number displays on the screen the instant that you touch its button on the screen. Granted, smartphones are actually pretty expensive (when not subsidized by carriers) but the technology and hardware are readily accessible to Ford. Is this problem because Ford is too cheap to put in a more powerful processor, or because of the length of development cycles for in-car technology?
Though we have not seen the changes in store for the software update, I’m guessing that it’s lipstick on a pig. The entire concept of MyFord Touch is flawed. As much as there are software problems (and there are; a former coworker’s new Edge crossover spent over a month in the dealership’s service bay to repair MyFord Touch in it; Ford ended up making at least one car payment for her in return for her troubles), the problems extend mainly to hardware.
Those hardware problems take two forms. First, the fundamental interface needs improvement from the standpoint of ease-of-use and driver distraction. Second, the system’s underlying computing power is lacking. The previous update provided to owners was supposed to have sped up responses and eliminated some crashes. There’s only so much that software can do to speed up responses, though. Doubling (or quadrupling) the processing power behind MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch in new vehicles (not just newly-designed ones) would probably significantly improve the system’s responsiveness.
If you thought that the withering criticism that Ford has received on MyFord Touch might encourage them to step back from it a bit, you’re wrong. As the headline says, Ford is doubling down on MyFord Touch. It has big plans for the system and will continue to expand its installation base throughout the lineup. But until the interface, crashing, and responsiveness issues are ironed out for good, MyFord Touch will continue to be a black mark on Ford’s reputation. After the enormous strides that Ford made in the quality arena over the past several years, it’s a damn shame to see it unwound by this ill-conceived system.