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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.


First Look: 2013 Ford F-Series

A new crop of trucks.

by on Jun.05, 2012

Ford's 2013 F-150 Lariat displays its new grille.

By most measures, it should be a tough year for the full-size pickup truck market.  Yet even when fuel prices were running at near-record levels, earlier this spring, demand for the big rigs was running hot.  And that means Ford may be perfectly timed for the introduction of its updated 2013 F-Series line.

The 2013 pickups won’t see near as dramatic an update as they did in recent years but there are some notable revisions, nonetheless, including some bold new grilles, added technologies and an all-new luxury model dubbed the Limited.

Ford pulled the covers off the new 2013 F-Series models during a conference of the Future Farmers of America, in Bruceville, Texas.  No surprise, perhaps, as the agricultural community has traditional been one of the strongest markets for full-size pickups.

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“Farm families have always represented an important F-Series truck constituency,” said Doug Scott, Ford Truck group marketing manager and FFA sponsor board member. “For these multitasking customers, a Ford pickup means family transportation, economic livelihood, rugged capability and reliability. Like FFA, Ford pickups are an enduring agricultural tradition, and we are delighted to join forces with them to reveal the new F-150 models.”


Ford Sets up Shop in Silicon Valley

New R&D center part of shift in thinking about car as mobile “platform.”

by on Jan.06, 2012

Ford's new Silicon Valley center will be located near key tech giants like HP, Microsoft and Google - as well as Stanford University.

Ford Motor Co. is setting up a new research lab in California’s fabled Silicon Valley, underscoring the Detroit maker’s efforts to turn the car into a mobile “platform,” rather than just a mechanical conveyance.

The new facility will help Ford develop a variety of new features and apps for its future products, from high-tech safety systems to advanced infotainment systems, company officials note.  It will be used to develop partnerships with both established technology firms – such as Microsoft, which developed the underlying software behind Ford’s popular Sync system – and start-ups.

The lab, which will be located near Stanford University, in Palo Alto, will help by “ushering in a new era of collaboration and finding new partners to help us transform what it means to be an automaker,” explained Ford’s Chief Technical Officer Paul Mascarenas, who suggested the move is “a very natural extension” for the second-largest of the U.S. makers.

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Ford has put a heavy emphasis on technology in recent years – as have many of its competitors.  Mark Fields, Ford’s President of the Americas, frequently talks about “democratizing technology,” by taking high-tech systems previously found in limited use on luxury products and putting it into high-volume production on mainstream models like the new Ford Fusion.


A Second Look at the 2012 Ford Focus

Staying in focus.

by on Oct.10, 2011

In a break with the past, two-thirds of the Ford Focus models sold in the U.S. are now hatchbacks.

Let’s see if we can get through this review without too many references to Ford focusing on its new 2012 Focus, or how the focus is on compact cars these days, or how the Focus focuses on fuel economy. You get the idea.

What Ford would prefer you to focus on (sorry) is the new Focus’ European pedigree, its on road prowess, and its 40 mpg promise. Let’s not forget the available MyFordTouch infotainment suite.

The last Focus was an unloved compact full of panel gaps, and what it lacked in performance it made up for in lack of styling. All the while, auto journos and compact-car freaks were clamoring for Ford’s European Focus.

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Well, it’s here. Available in either hatchback or sedan configurations, the new Focus is a stylish entry in a class that is suddenly filled with fashionable entrées, such as the Hyundai Elantra, Hyundai Veloster, Subaru Impreza, and even the Chevrolet Cruze, which may not have the haute couture duds, but does have a plenty strong package.

Ford’s Fiesta was the Blue Oval’s first volley in the small-car war, and the Focus follows in its footsteps, albeit wearing bigger shoes. Available in four trims—S, SE, SEL, and Titanium—the Focus has a 2.0-liter gasoline direct-injection four-cylinder that makes 160 horsepower and matches to either a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.


First Look: 2013 Ford Taurus

A higher-mileage "rolling showcase" of technology.

by on Apr.20, 2011

Ford updates the Taurus for 2013, adding new features and a second EcoBoost engine rated at 31 mpg highway.

Just three years into its latest run, the Ford Taurus is getting  an update designed to enhance its appeal through a mix of design changes, technological updates and, perhaps most significantly, more fuel-efficient powertrains.

The 2013 Taurus will become the first Ford product to offer two versions of Ford’s new high-mileage EcoBoost engine technology, one capable of delivering up to 31 miles per gallon, a significant figure for such a large sedan.

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The new Taurus is “a rolling showcase of our best technologies and features,” proclaimed Ford’s global product czar, Derrick Kuzak, during a New York Auto Show preview.

The Taurus is one of the best-known nameplates in the American market, industry studies have shown.  First introduced in 1986, the sedan became an instant best-seller before Ford began to shift focus to its more profitable light truck models.  The nameplate was briefly allowed to lag, but when he joined the company four years ago, then-new CEO Alan Mulally pressed for its return.


Ford, Toyota Locked in “Dead Heat,” Says Consumer Reports

Ford “excels in factors that consumers say matter.”

by on Jan.05, 2011

Ford gains, Toyota declines, in latest Consumer Reports Brand Perception study.

Ford and Toyota have found themselves in a statistical “dead heat” in terms of how they’re perceived by U.S. car buyers, reports Consumer Reports magazine.

The annual Car Brand Perception Survey reveals a number of trends and surprises about how motorists relate to various automotive brands.  Not unexpectedly, Toyota has taken some serious hits as a result of more than a year of scandals relating to its various quality and safety problems.  Ford, on the other hand, continues to gain momentum with an assortment of new products that seem to be hitting the sweet spot in the American market.

“Ford excels in the factors that consumers say matter most,” the influential non-profit publication reports, “safety, quality and value.”

Ironically, the good news for Ford comes just a day after Consumer Reports reviewers decided not to give a “Buy” recommendation to the maker’s Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers, contending that their “MyTouch” touchscreen infotainment systems are “overly complicated and distracting.” (Click Here for the full story.) That same technology has won numerous endorsements from other third-party reviewers, reflecting Ford’s generally positive growth in consumer perception.