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Infotainment Systems are the Plague of the Auto Industry, Says Consumer Reports

Japanese makers retain lead in quality, reliability.

by on Oct.27, 2014

CR gives thumbs up to the Toyota Camry, the magazine predicting good reliability for the 2015 update.

The quality of the cars sold on the U.S. market has hit a plateau, and motorists can put the blame on new technologies – especially the infotainment systems that have become increasingly common on today’s models, according to a new study by Consumer Reports.

The influential non-profit publication likened the issue to a “reliability plague,” chief auto tester Jake Fisher noting that, if anything, the latest annual Consumer Reports Automotive Reliability study might be downplaying the problem because it reports only actual defects.

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The situation would be even worse if the study included complaints about just how difficult many infotainment systems are to operate.

“The big problem is infotainment. Take that out and (the quality of) cars would be improving,” said Fisher, during an appearance before the Detroit Automotive Press Association.

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Ford’s Mulally, Fields Make Early, Informal CEO Transition

A rock-star reception.

by on Jun.25, 2014

Ford's incoming CEO Mark Fields with the 2015 Edge.

Officially, Alan Mulally had nearly a week left before his retirement, Mark Fields still in the on-deck circle. But informally, the outgoing Ford Motor Co. CEO handed the baton over to his successor this week during Ford’s annual summer media preview.

The 68-year-old Mulally has spent his last few weeks visiting Ford facilities around the world, “saying thank you,” he explained after dropping in on a morning briefing capped by the preview of the maker’s 2015 Edge crossover.

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Even after nearly eight years on the job, with retirement approaching fast, Mulally maintained the boyish exuberance that has been a hallmark of his tenure, reminding everyone he spoke with to “continue supporting Ford” under its new leadership. And, more like a rock star than a traditional business exec, Mulally took time to pose for pictures, signing media badges with a personal note and a big heart.

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Ford Ready to Un-Friend Microsoft

Maker reportedly ready to switch to BlackBerry for its Sync system.

by on Feb.24, 2014

Ford's latest Sync update expanded the capabilities of the system but failed to completely resolve ongoing consumer complaints.

Ford has good reason to take claim for kick-starting today’s automotive infotainment revolution.  Its Sync system was the first to really put the technology in the eye of the American consumer, ushering in an era where motorists can access everything from music apps like Pandora to social media such as Facebook while driving.

But while Sync initially led millions of potential buyers to consider Ford products, an assortment of problems with Sync and the related MyFordTouch and MyLincolnTouch interfaces has resulted in countless others steering clear of the maker – Ford watching its quality scores slumping as a result of those issues.

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So there’s probably little surprise that the automaker is about ready to un-friend Microsoft, the Seattle-based software giant that supplies the underlying technology behind Sync – and which has gotten much of the blame for glitzing screens, slow responses and balky touch interfaces. Instead, the Detroit maker is expected to shift to the QNX operating system developed by BlackBerry Ltd.

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Ford Recalls Escape CUV – Again

Leaks can lead to fires.

by on Nov.26, 2013

The 2013 Ford Escape has now been subject to seven different recalls.

Ford Motor Co. is yet again recalling its Escape crossover-utility vehicle, the seventh time that has happened since the hot-selling vehicle was redesigned for the 2013 model-year.

The latest problem centers around potential oil and fuel leaks that could result in vehicle fires. The maker says the problems are the result of two separate problems, including faulty work done on the assembly line.

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A total of 13 fires connected to the oil leak issue have so far been reported, though there have been no reports of injuries.

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GM Tops Power’s Initial Quality Survey for 1st Time

High-tech problems are now car buyers’ biggest headache.

by on Jun.19, 2013

Hot Wheels...the Camaro was one of eight segment winners for GM in the 2013 IQS.

After years lagging the imports, General Motors has surged to the top of the charts in the 2013 J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey, the most influential measure of vehicle quality during the first months off the showroom lot.

The new study also reveals that, on the whole, the quality of this year’s cars, trucks and crossovers actually declined a bit from 2012 – a decline largely the result of design-related problems that, for the most part, can’t be resolved at the dealership. Issued related to the latest infotainment systems and other high-tech devices are the single largest source of these buyer headaches, according to J.D. Power.

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On the positive side, “Manufacturers are doing a lot better when it comes to engines and chasses and other mechanical systems,” explained Dave Sargent, the head of automotive research for California-based J.D. Power and Associates. “Most of the problems people are now reporting involve the latest technology.”

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Ford Promises to Fix “Isolated” Quality Problems

Maker remains committed to MyFordTouch despite problems.

by on Dec.19, 2012

Ford Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields insists recent quality problems are "isolated incidents."

Ford has long claimed that “Quality is Job 1,” though it has taken a drubbing in recent months for some nagging problems that have seen it tumble on quality and reliability surveys.

The maker intends to aggressively address such “isolated incidents,” Ford’s new Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields insists.  That notably includes the maker’s Sync and MyFordTouch infotainment technologies which have come in for some of the sharpest criticism. But Ford will also have to deal with a variety of other problems that have seen some of its newest models repeatedly recalled in recent months, including a variety of recalls.

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“We’ve had a few issues,” acknowledges Fields, who until a few weeks ago served as Ford’s President of the Americas. “When we see a problem we go at it proactively to address the issue as quickly as possible.”

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Ford Recalling New Fusion for Faulty Headlamps

Second recall in a week for new sedan.

by on Dec.07, 2012

The 2013 Ford Fusion faces a second recall.

Ford Motor Co. plans to recall more than 19,000 of its new Fusion midsize sedans to replace faulty headlamps, the second service action hitting the new and well-publicized vehicle in just a week.

Last Friday, the automaker announced that it would recall about 80,000 vehicles, including nearly 16,000 Fusions, because of a potential fire risk.

The latest recall was triggered by the discovery of a manufacturing defect at a Ford supplier that could result in the vehicle’s headlamps dimming and becoming hazy over time, according to documents the automaker filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety  Administration.

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A company spokesman said the headlamp problem was discovered during internal testing of the Fusion sedan, which was completely redesigned for the 2013 model-year and which went on sale in September. The maker says it has received no reports of accidents or injuries related to the problem – though NHTSA warned that the defect could nonetheless increase the possibility of a crash.

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Tops in Quality Toyota Still Lags in New Survey

VW, Ford, Chrysler lead in "Things Gone Right."

by on Aug.27, 2012

The Chevy Volt proves a surprise winner in the midsize segment, according to the 2012 TQI.

As it has so often over the years, Toyota is coming out tops in the new Total Quality Index – at least when measured according to the least problems per vehicle – what is often referred to as “Things Gone Wrong,” or TGWs, inside the auto industry.

But that’s only one way to measure things, cautions Alexander Edwards, president of the California-based consulting firm, Strategic Vision.  Consumers don’t just look at what’s wrong, he stresses.  They’re also looking for the features that surprise and delight – like an unusually powerful engine, better-than-expected fuel economy, or a well-appointed interior.

When you add in those factors which are commonly referred to as “Things Gone Right,” or TGRs, the picture is quite different, and Volkswagen surges to the top of the 2012 Total Quality Index.  Perhaps equally surprising, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler tie for second by that measure.

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“This is ultimately, how people think about vehicles and spend money,” stressed Edwards, echoing a growing sense in the industry that with most makers now delivering near-perfect out-of-the-box quality those manufacturers who can delight the customer who will eventually win out.

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Quality Makes Big Gains, Says JD Power, But Tech Headaches Worsen

High-tech issues now the most serious issue for most manufacturers.

by on Jun.20, 2012

The newly redesigned Porsche 911 posted the best score in the history of the IQS.

Forget the flats, the rattles and wind noise, even the balky transmissions.  These days, the biggest headache for a new car buyer is likely to be the voice controlled infotainment system.

The good news is that the latest crop of new cars, trucks and crossovers are “better than ever,” according to the 2012 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study.  But while manufacturers have largely overcome the defects and malfunctions that traditionally plagued buyers, motorists are experiencing more issues with the latest in-car technologies, such as voice-controlled navigation and Bluetooth hands-free phones.

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The annual IQS asks owners to report on both defects and design-related issues during the first months after they’ve driven their new products home.  On average, the 2012 study found an average 102 “problems” for every 100 new vehicles.  That’s down from 107 “PP100” in 2011, to use Power-speak.

“This is, without doubt, the best level of quality we’ve ever seen,” noted Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates, or JDPA.

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Ford Accused of Covering up F-Series Fuel Tank Defects

Lawsuit claims maker advised dealers, ignored customers.

by on Mar.16, 2012

The suit alleges the lining of the F-Series fuel tank can flake off and cause engine stalling.

A lawsuit filed this week in federal court in New Jersey claims Ford Motor Co. hid problems with the fuel tanks in its big F-Series pickups that reportedly can lead to a loss of power or stalling.

The complaint, Coba et al v Ford Motor Co., seeks to be certified as a class action.  The automaker had no immediate comment and it is not clear if federal regulators are now looking into the issue as it could be considered a potential safety hazard.

The problem could be a significant one for Ford if the courts agree with the complaint.  The F-Series is not only the automaker’s best-selling product but has been the most popular product in the U.S. market for the last 30 consecutive years. (F-Series Tops the Sales Charts. Click Here for more.)

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According to the papers filed with the U.S. District Court, Ford was aware that the linings of the F-Series pickups and E-Series vans built between 1999 and 2008 could “separate and flake-off,” which could clog the fuel lines, leading to a loss of power or even stalling.

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