Problems with cutting-edge technology has reduced quality for new and redesigned cars, according to J.D. Power and Associates -- and no one is feeling the pain quite like Ford.
The automaker fell from fifth place last year to the No. 23 spot this year in Power's annual Initial Quality Survey, largely because of problems with its MyFord Touch system (pictured below), which features voice controls for navigation, music and cell phones.
To be sure, Ford wasn't the only automaker that got called out: Recent car buyers reported 10% more problems with new and redesigned models than a year earlier, although reported quality improved on unchanged models.
The top five brands this year were Lexus, Honda, Acura, Mercedes-Benz and Mazda. Honda had the most models ranked at the top of individual segments, with seven. Lexus had four segment winners and Chevrolet, Ford and Mercedes-Benz two each. The only American brands in the top 10 this year were General Motors' Cadillac and GMC, at numbers 9 and 10.
Power analysts, in looking at the data gathered from 73,000 buyers reporting problems in the first 90 days of ownership, said multimedia systems similar to MyFord Touch were a major source of complaints. The other problematic new technology involved the numerous systems designed to boost fuel economy. Such technology "sometimes leads to the engine or transmission hesitating when accelerating or changing gears, and consumers this year are reporting this as a problem more often than in past years," the study says.
"Clearly consumers are interested in having new technology in their vehicles, but automakers must ensure that the technology is ready for prime time," says David Sargent, vice president of global research at J.D. Power.
The problems with MyFord Touch -- the latest generation of its heavily promoted and popular SYNC system of voice commands -- are especially disappointing for Ford. Consumer Reports has criticized the new system repeatedly for being too complicated.
The problem, says senior analyst Michele Krebs of automotive web site Edmunds.com, is that "The engineers who designed this system are more technically inclined than the average user. Ford engineers need to take a step back to understand what is intuitive for the typical driver."
Here are the overall quality rankings for all brands:
- Industry average
- Land Rover
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