Posted by Dale Buss on October 30, 2013 07:14 PM
Consumer Reports has spoken. And now Ford, Toyota and Mini are among the brands that are having to pick up the pieces.
When the highly influential bible of the American consumer released its closely watched annual reliability ratings this week, Ford suffered a case of deja vu because the magazine's survey of readers relegated the Lincoln and Ford brands to the second- and third-worst positions of all auto brands in the US market. Mini had the distinction of placing worst of all.
But Toyota may have been hurt worse. In a separate but concurrent evaluation, Consumer Reports landed a huge blow against the Toyota Camry, removing the bread-and-butter nameplate of Toyota's lineup from the magazine's Recommended List because it failed a new crash test. The test, designed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, is supposed to do a better job of evaluating how cars will protect occupants in frontal crashes; Toyota's RAV-4 and Prius, and the Audi A4, also were dropped for the same reason.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on June 17, 2013 02:57 PM
Ford has finally given in to the primordial leanings of its customers and decided to put more old-fashioned knobs and buttons on its infotainment controls. But the move—arguably, belated by two years—still might not be enough to save Ford this week from another poor third-party evaluation that got the brand into trouble in the first place.
Ford will reprise tuning and volume knobs for the radio as it redesigns existing models and introduces new ones, Raj Nair, Ford's global product-development chief, told the Wall Street Journal. That's because the company finally gave in to two years of complaints about the initial version of its touch-screen multimedia system, MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch, which essentially were a Version 2.0 of its popular Sync technology.
In 2011, reports by both J.D. Power and Consumer Reports—two of the most authoritative sources of independent evaluation in the business—slammed Ford for MyFord Touch because the touch-screen interface, voice-activiated controls and other aspects of the system confounded users. Power even labeled it a "quality" issue and dropped Ford from one of the top auto brands in its annual Initial Quality Survey to a below-average brand.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on June 14, 2013 06:38 PM
As the value of infotainment features rise in new-car purchases, the desirability of controlling the digital environment inside the automobile rises commensurately. And it's finally gotten juicy enough that Apple wants in. The big question of the moment in the auto industry, however, is: Do the auto brands want to let in the world's coolest tech brand?
There already is divided opinion over whether to welcome Apple's announcement at its developers' conference this week that it plans to more seamlessly link its new iOS7 mobile operating system into vehicle infotainment systems. It'll be a simplified, Siri-enabled application of iPhone functions into a car's dash screen and infotainment system, essentially turning these prime locations into yet another type of software platform for all of Apple's devices.
Apple says already that many auto brands are in discussions with it over uses of the platform, while it notably left out Ford, which linked up with Microsoft to launch its Sync infotainment platform several years ago.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on May 28, 2013 07:20 PM
General Motors believes that OnStar finally may be ready to leapfrog other automotive "telematics" players who got ahead of the brand over the last several years even though OnStar was the industry's original infotainment platform.
The key? GM's deal wtih AT&T to provide 4G LTE connectivity—the fastest type of wireless Internet connection now available—through Onstar next year, according to Automotive News. OnStar already is a profit-margin powerhouse for GM, but CEO Dan Akerson told analysts recently that the 4G deal will open up "what I think are potentially lucrative lines of business that don't exist in OnStar today. So when we look at what we can do with a 4G pipe into a car," said Akerson, whose background is in telecom, "you can change the business model almost entirely."Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on May 23, 2013 04:28 PM
The picture for Ford and other automakers in the US market continues to look pretty good, but Europe remains a very challenging market. So Ford is launching a major new European advertising campaign this weekend tied to the "Super Bowl" of the continent's favorite sport, soccer.
Ford of Europe is leveraging the hugely popular 2013 UEFA Champions League Final football match on Saturday to begin a new effort—one of the biggest so far under its worldwide "Go Further" positioning unveiled last year—that emphasizes technologies available across all or much of Ford's product lineup rather than focusing, as usual, on individual nameplates.
A TV audience of 150 million people across Europe is expected for the finals at London's Wembley stadium, where perimeter boards at the game also will direct viewers to a new website that includes entertaining videos and information about the featured technologies.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on February 26, 2013 11:26 AM
General Motors and Ford have been traveling down different lanes in their connected-car race right from the start. With their latest advancements, the two biggest U.S. automakers have continued to pursue quite different paths for getting to the same goal: clear leadership in automotive connectivity with the outside digital world.
GM shared the details at Mobility World Congress in Barcelona today of its plan to hard-wire 4G capabilities into its vehicles through the OnStar "telematics" platform that it introduced in 1996. Beginning with 2014 models sold in the U.S. and Canada, the company plans to connect its Chevys, Buicks and other brands to the Internet or Wi-Fi at speeds that are 10 times faster than current market offerings. Applications could include the display of real-time traffic jams or construction sites through the car's own brains on its in-dash screen and the piping of a robust video stream to screens in the back seat.
"We are going to make the experience of streaming or connecting more productive, which should help to make that road trip shorter," Mary Chan, president of the global connected consumer at OnStar, told the Wall Street Journal. Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on January 7, 2013 02:18 PM
The Ford brand closed 2012 on some weak notes, grappling with pesky recalls on its newest vehicles and trying to figure out how to shore up owner confidence in MyFord Touch. But some believe Ford is on course for a stellar 2013, the automaker is certainly showing signs of a new-year renaissance with its announcements at this week's International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Ford's difficulties last year stemmed largely from consumer confusion over how to use the MyFord Touch infotainment hardware and software, and their frustration spilled over into poor ratings via third parties such as Consumer Reports. Ford also took blows from issuing four recalls on its crucial new Escape SUV and from reviewer skepticism about reported mileage levels for its new C-Max hybrid.
Yet in the new year, which could be his last full one as CEO, Ford chief Alan Mulally and his troops will be able to rely on a number of momentum builders. They'll have full-volume sales of the newly designed Fusion mid-size sedan and, without any more recalls, should be able to build sales of Escape as well. Sales of the Focus compact continue to build; the Fiesta subcompact, in December, recovered a bit from its recent sales doldrums. And Ford's F-Series pickups continue as the best-selling vehicles in America.
Against that backdrop, and ahead of an expected "product blitz" at the upcoming North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Ford's 2013 CES news includes enhancing its SYNC AppLink in-car connected platform with new mobile partners:Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on November 19, 2012 01:52 PM
Ford may still be smarting from how Consumer Reports downgraded its reliability rating this year, largely because of continued customer problems with MyFord Touch. But CEO Alan Mulally is defiant in asserting the brand's leadership in infotainment technology and seems determined to keep it central to the company's strategy.
In fact, Mulally told Automotive News that the company plans to help Ford dealers serve customers with technology upgrades to its vehicles that will feel similar to how Americans already frequently upgrade to new smartphones or, say, to Windows 8.
"We want to move to the place where you have this enduring relationship with your Ford store just like your Apple store," he told the magazine. "You go in, you get the latest upgrades on the technology and off you go. You see what's coming, and you can decide which features you want."
Unfortunately for Ford, such "features" these days don't necessarily include MyFord Touch. After a strong start in the infotainment biz with Sync for a few years, MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch have been souring the brands' relationships with new-car buyers for two years now, and finally have begun bringing down regard for Ford overall.Continue reading...