J.D. Power and Associates' annual Initial Quality Study results may show that many Ford owners still aren't thrilled with their MyFord Touch connectivity systems, but they also haven't had time to assess significant changes Ford introduced in March.
The automaker has modified the touch-screen software and design, and adjusted a transmission used in its smaller models that drew some complaints last year.
Its own consumer surveys show customers like the changes, said Jim Farley, head of global marketing, sales and service.
But most of the fixes were implemented after the deadline for the 2012 quality survey, which measures owners' opinion of their vehicles after 90 days, Farley said at a media briefing Tuesday.
Last year, Ford's IQS ranking fell to No. 23 from No. 5 in 2010 and executives have stressed ever since that restoring quality is Job One.
To that end, software upgrades were made to MyFord Touch, MyLincoln Touch and a dual-clutch six-speed transmission in the Fiesta and Focus.
The updated MyFord Touch software was sent to 377,000 Ford customers in March.
To date, 90% have completed the upgrade and satisfaction rates rose by 25%, Farley said of fixes that make commands larger and easier to use on the touch screen.
But the technology leaves Maurice Payne, 69, of Trenton cold.
"I'm not computer-savvy and I can't do it," he says of using the touch screen to adjust the radio or climate control. "I have to take my eyes off the road to try to figure it out."
On the transmission issue, Ford eliminated a lag time between shifting and accelerating on the Fiesta, a change Farley said has been well received.
But similar changes on the Focus transmission were done later and won't be evident in today's survey results, according to Ford quality chief Bennie Fowler.
Farley said customers also want more features and are paying for higher trim levels and more premium packages than anticipated.
The hatchback is doing better than expected with 42% of Focus buyers opting for the 5-door -- double Ford's forecast.
"We're confident of our overall bet on technology," Farley said, adding 60% of consumers cited the Sync system as a reason for their vehicle purchase.
While Ford will continue using social media to promote its brands, Farley said they are more effective when paired with traditional advertising.
He did not rule out a Super Bowl ad in the future.
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