Auto blogWed, 07 Aug 2013 11:01:00 EST
Ford hasn't had the best luck with its MyFord Touch and Sync systems, as the finicky infotainment system has been subject to a critical whooping while customer issues have helped sink Ford's IQS scores. The automaker has made a concerted effort, though, to try and fix MyFord Touch. And while the results have been mixed, The Blue Oval is hoping its latest free update, set to go live next week, will make things better.
According to a report from The Detroit News, the new system promises streamlined voice commands with fewer levels between opening query and actual result. Ford is also addressing where certain options are selected on the touchscreen. Rather than working one of the four quadrants on the homescreen, users will be able to select anywhere within the quadrant to make adjustments.
While it might only be a band-aid for MFT's problems, the fact that Ford is still trying to improve it is a promising sign. It's going to take more than just this update to address the system's ills, though.
With recent news that the Secret Service has begun soliciting proposals for a new armored limousine, we've been wondering what the next presidential limo might look like. The current machine, nicknamed "The Beast", has a design based on a car that's no longer sold: the Cadillac DTS. If General Motors gets the job again, which wouldn't be a surprise considering the government still owns a chunk of the company, the next limo's shape would likely resemble the new XTS (below, left). But Cadillac hasn't always been the go-to car company for presidential whips.
Lincoln has actually provided far more presidential limousines throughout history than Cadillac. In fact, the first car modified for Commander-in-Chief-carrying duty was a 1939 Lincoln K-Series called "Sunshine Special" used by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the last Lincoln used by a president was a 1989 Town Car ordered for George H.W. Bush. If President Obama wanted a Lincoln today, it would likely be an amalgam of the MKS sedan and MKT crossover, as illustrated above.
And what about Chrysler? The only record we could find of a President favoring the Pentastar is Nixon, who reportedly ordered two limos from the company during his administration in the '70s, and then another one, known today as the "K-Car limo," in the '80s after he left office. Obama, however, has a personal - if modest - connection to Chryslers, having owned a 300 himself before he took office. A 300-based Beast (above, right) would certainly earn the U.S. some style points.
The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid has been something of a hit for Ford since the beginning, exceeding the company's modest projected 15-percent take rate for more than two years (we say "modest" because that still means an overwhelming majority of Lincoln customers are passing up on the gas-electric powertrain even though it costs the same as the standard model). Either way, Lincoln builds 700 MKZ Hybrids at its plant in Mexico each month, but has sold 715 of them in each of the past three months. That's why, according to a report in The Detroit News, when the restyled 2014 MKZ Hybrid arrives (non-hybrid pictured), Ford is doubling production compared to 2013. Instead of the hybrid model being 20 percent of production, the new hybrid will make up 40 percent.
Ford is doing well with hybrids in general - its portion of the electrified vehicle segment jumping 12 points in a single year to 16 percent. Assuming Ford doesn't change the pricing strategy (along with the changes Ford is making to calibration to improve fuel economy), the sedan could continue to "[show] other luxury hybrids how it's done" when it goes on sale later this year.
Ford has announced that it is introducing "calibration updates designed to improve on-road fuel economy for owners of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid."
We can speculate that these changes are at least due in part to lawsuits over mileage claims of hybrid vehicles. The automaker is enhancing 2013 models starting in August by raising their electric cruising speed to 85 miles per hour from 62 mph, optimizing the use of active grille shutters and the climate control system, shortening the engine warm-up period by 50 percent and reducing electric fan speed to minimize the fan's energy consumption.
It bears mentioning that Ford is doing pretty well in the US electrified vehicle market this year. The company claims to have grown its share in the segment by 12 points to 16 percent while taking a high number of Toyota Prius trade-ins in the process. Conversely, Toyota has experienced a five-percent drop in new-Prius sales over the same period. Additionally, Ford states that it has increased its share of the US vehicle market by one percent this year, more than any full-line automaker.
A national law firm, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, has filed a proposed class action lawsuit whose presupposition is that MyFord Touch is defective. Specifically, the complaint states that the system - as well as the MyLincoln Touch and MyMercury Touch clones - often freeze, fail to respond to voice or touch commands and have issues connecting to mobile phones.
According to Hagens Berman managing partner Steve Berman, MyFord Touch is a theoretically "brilliant idea" that falls short in actual execution. Said Berman in a press release, "In reality, the system is fundamentally flawed, failing to reliably provide functionality, amounting to an inconvenience at best, and a serious safety issue at worst."
Other MFT issues enumerated within the 41-page filing include problems controlling the window defroster, rear-view camera and navigation system. The suit maintains that Ford is aware of the problem but has yet to submit a workable and acceptable solution to MFT customers. Scroll down if you'd like to read the full press release.
Ford deserves credit for being a front-runner in offering advanced infotainment technology with its Sync and MyFord Touch systems, but continued consumer complaints over its confusing touchscreen interface and capacitive controls has made the automaker relent. The Wall Street Journal reports that physical buttons and knobs for controlling tuning and volume will be coming back to Ford vehicles equipped with the controversial infotainment system.
The 2013 F-150 with MyFord Touch gives us a glimpse of what the new layout with buttons and knobs might look like, as Ford says a similar balance of touch screen capability and buttons/knobs are what's being planned for future models. And, while capacitive controls have no fans in the halls of Autoblog, many of Ford's models with MyFord Touch do have a large physical knob for adjusting volume with integrated buttons for tuning and advancing tracks, though most of those are models with the optional upgraded Sony Audio system. Lincoln models with MyLincoln Touch, however, feature only capacitive controls for all stereo and climate functions.
Despite receiving enough complaints to throw buttons and knobs back into the mix (a move that reminds us of BMW's iDrive trajectory, among others), Ford reports that Sync and MyFord Touch have still been sold on 79 percent of its 2013 model year vehicles, a number it claims is double the rate that Honda and Toyota are getting for their infotainment systems. Ford also states that owners who do opt for the duo of technologies are more satisfied with overall vehicle quality than those who don't have it.
Complimentary scheduled maintenance programs have been great tools for luxury automakers to draw in new customers, but some are starting to scale their programs back considerably. According to Automotive News, Lincoln is joining Jaguar and Volvo on the list of automakers reducing the length of time it will be providing free maintenance to its customers.
Lincoln's four-year/50,000-mile maintenance program first kicked off as an incentive in 2010 and became permanent later that year, but starting with the 2014 model year, this will be cut to just two years and 24,000 miles. This could make short-term leases even more appealing for some consumers, but according to Automotive News, some Lincoln dealers are unhappy with the scaling back. The move admittedly comes at an odd time for Lincoln, with parent Ford seemingly working hard to increase consideration among luxury buyers as it looks to reverse the marque's long decline.
When Lincoln pulled the wraps off the MKC Concept at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, we said that the very attractive concept was going to closely mirror the production vehicle. With few exceptions, a clad prototype recently caught running on public roads seems to substantiate our statement.
From what the pictures reveal, the disguised Lincoln MKC production mule and show concept seem to share the same waistline with identical sculpting over the wheels. The midsection of the two also appear to match with the same flare and styling. The lower rockers have been cleaned up a bit, mainly to be more practical in the real world (the deep chisels on the show car would have collected mud and snow).
Taking a look at the exposed front bumper, we see a very similar lower fascia complete wtih the metal skid plate on the chin. The window profile also seems to match the concept, though we're still unclear exactly how that C- and D-pillar section is going to look. Of course, and it always seems to be the case when concepts evolve into production vehicles, the MKC gains four normal door handles, standard-sized mirrors and a slightly smaller wheel/tire package. We expect the production version of the Lincoln MKC to debut later this year.
Automotive News reports Lincoln is looking to Chinese luxury shoppers for customer service ideas. Those notions may eventually make their way back to the US in the form of new dealership training. Jim Farley, the executive vice president of global marketing for Ford, tells Automotive News, "In many ways, China will be a listening post for Lincoln in the United States. Soon China will be the largest luxury market in the world." Farley also said that in China, the Lincoln brand is currently where Lexus was when the Japanese brand first landed in the US.
Lincoln is slated to open its first Chinese dealerships in 2014. The brand is largely unknown in Asia, and Lincoln representatives have been visiting other luxury dealers in China for an idea of what buyers there expect. Lincoln has also studied non-automotive luxury shopping, paying special attention to high-end retail branding.
Of course, this whole song and dance feels awfully familiar. Lincoln has focused heavily on remaking the brand and recrafting its marketing here in the States, thus far without sufficient product to back the play. Lincoln is already late to the China game, and without the necessary products to lure buyers away from established bodies like Buick and Cadillac, Lincoln may be doomed to repeat its fate here in the US.
With a new boss at the helm, Ford is looking at new ways to improve its vehicle launches in North America to prevent recent issues that have popped up with models like the Lincoln MKZ, Ford Escape and Ford Fusion. Speaking with Automotive News, Ford's new president of the Americas, Joe Hinrichs, revealed a few ways the automaker plans to avoid early build issues such as the engine fires on certain 2013 Escape and Fusion models and months-long delays for customers to receive their MKZs.
It sounds like the root of the problems may have been Ford's relationship with suppliers compounded by the fact that the product surge came on the heels of the recent industry-crippling recession, and in the AN article, Hinrichs says improvements are being made to reduce problems during the launch of new or redesigned models. Three such improvements that were implemented during the first quarter of this year including more rigorous quality comparisons, better use of computer technology to catch major problems sooner and hiring engineers to work closer with suppliers.