DETROIT -

The auto industry calls them “telematics." Consumer Reports calls them Ford’s trouble!

If you own a new Ford car or truck you may have had to do some serious wrestling with the MyFord Touch electronics system. When Ford rolled it out at the North American International Auto Show some five years ago with Microsoft it was supposed to revolutionize the industry. The idea did, the system did not.

It was a walk out on a limb risk Alan Mulally and his staff took trying to get out in front of the pack with a system that merged radio, navigation and cell phone functions into one easy to use package. Ford missed the target on the “easy to use” part. In a word Consumer Reports says MyFord Touch “Stinks”! Here is the link to the seriously damning piece.

Now we have done this story before. MyFord Touch has damaged Ford’s quality rankings greatly recently. You may recall it was only a few years ago Ford was leading the industry in initial quality rankings and blowing away traditional leaders like Mercedes, Porsche and Toyota. Then Ford fell off the quality map. The MyFord Touch system is to blame.

The ranking agencies like Consumer Reports rate telematics on an even par with the transmission or the engine. Many of us in the industry think it is unfair to make that comparison. But we don’t do the rankings and as the rating agencies will tell you if you are a customer it doesn’t matter whether it is a balky transmission or an uncooperative telematics system. If your driving experience winds up uncomfortable for any reason it is a quality problem. Ford’s managers know they have a problem and put a team on it to do a software upgrade on the system earlier this year.

In fact, Ford put out a statement today saying that helped the situation greatly:

“We listen closely and value all feedback on our vehicles – whether it’s from customers or third parties. That feedback is used to continuously improve our products and we’re seeing results from that commitment. According to a survey of MyFord and MyLincoln Touch owners conducted earlier this year, those who installed the recent software upgrade report a 25 percentage point increase in satisfaction. Also, 71 percent of owners with the new upgrade say they would recommend MyFord or MyLincoln Touch to others."

Now, Consumer Reports has long been accused of being biased against the Domestic automakers and has often lived down to that reputation. Still, Ford knows this is a problem because it keeps coming up as a national story and while it doesn’t seem to have hurt sales much it certainly can’t help either.

I suspect there will be dramatic changes coming to solve this soon. This has been too costly to Ford’s reputation to let it linger much longer.