2012 Ford Explorer XLT: The Fix Is In -- the Mail
March 07, 2012
Those howls you hear echoing across the Ford-o-sphere with some regularity are coming from people whose MyFord Touch systems confound and malfunction on a daily basis. The system has almost single-handedly been responsible for torpedoing Ford in quality rankings compiled by J.D. Power and Associates and Consumer Reports.
We've had our own problems with the system in our Explorer, and I experienced the wonders of Touchiness this week when I drove a short-term 2012 Ford Edge to a networking event sponsored by Women in Technology International. The guests for the evening were three Ford engineers, including one who is a specialist in voice recognition and is on the MyFord Touch team.
I used voice recognition in the Edge to set the event's location as the trip destination:1413 Fifth Street, Santa Monica. After three tries at saying the address as clearly as I could, and even substituting "Five" for "Fifth" Street, in case the system thought I was lisping, I had to give up. There was no recognition of the address. I entered it manually and went on my way.
During the evening, I had a chance to talk for a few minutes with the MyFord Touch voice-recognition engineer. (We were off-duty, so I'm leaving her unnamed in this report.) The problems with MyFord Touch are "totally unacceptable," she said. Everybody inside Ford knows how bad they are and employees have been working hard to get them fixed, she said. It's particularly disheartening for Ford peoplle, she said, because the problems are cropping up at a time when the company has been breaking through with vehicles that people really want to buy. I'm pretty sure consumers feel the same way about the disconnect between good cars and bad software systems.
When I described my problem in getting the voice recognition to understand the restaurant's address, she smiled ruefully. She'd had exactly the same experience in a Focus the Ford team had brought to the mixer. MyFord Touch "doesn't like Santa Monica, for some reason," she said. (There's many a rock-ribbed Republican who would agree with MyFord Touch on that score. But that's about social engineering, not the automotive variety.)
She also confirmed -- with relief -- what I'd read earlier in the day: Improved software for MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch is being mailed out to current owners of cars with the systems on March 8. In its official release, Ford says that more than 300,000 owners will get the kit in the company's effort "to improve their driving experience even further."
Ford says that the packages will include "a USB flash drive with the updated software, a notification letter, detailed instructions for the 60-minute download, and an updated user guide. Navigation-equipped vehicle owners also will receive an updated SD card with all-new, updated map data." Yes, a 60-minute download. Pack a lunch.
If customers don't want to wait for the delivery, or don't want to do the upgrade by themselves, they can take their vehicles to Ford or Lincoln dealers and they'll handle it.
Finally, for a classic example of what journalists call "burying the lead," please see Ford's press release on the matter. The software upgrade is not even mentioned until the last few paragraphs. And aside from a comment about the upgrade incorporating user "feedback," consumer ire at system's problems is not mentioned at all.
Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor