By Adam Rubenfire, Crain News Service
[Editor's note: Earlier versions of this story by Automotive News, citing a plaintiffs' lawsuit and press release, mentioned a "MyMercury Touch" System. A Ford spokesman said that such a system never existed because the Mercury brand ceased to exist before the infotainment system was launched.]
DETROIT (July 18, 2013) — A proposed class-action lawsuit has been filed against Ford Motor Co., alleging that the MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch infotainment systems are defective.
In a 41-page compliant filed July 15 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the Center for Defensive Driving (CDD) alleges that the system — which was tested in a 2013 F-150 Lariat pickup leased by the organization — often freezes, fails to respond to voice and touch commands and has a poor connection with mobile phones and MP3 players.
The CDD offers free educational presentations on defensive driving to the public, according to its website. The organization's three directors are volunteers; it has no paid staff.
The complaint alleges that Ford knew about the defects but did not disclose the problems to potential customers. Ford has issued several technical service bulletins regarding system errors, and the company upgraded and extended the warranty on the system following complaints last year.
In 2011, Ford CEO Alan Mulally acknowledged problems with the system, but said that customers would be satisfied after the upgrade that was released last year.
In November 2012, Ford reported that there were 400 problems with the MyFord Touch system for every 1,000 vehicles, according to Reuters. The company has pledged to resolve at least 40 of those problems by August, the report said.
A Ford spokesman said the auto maker does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit cites several National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) complaints regarding the defect and also points out that David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power and Associates, told the New York Times that the infotainment system was a primary reason for Ford's decline in the firm's rankings.
Although the suit claims that the faulty system represents a safety risk, the main aim of the litigation is to seek damages related to the inconvenience of the product defects, Jason Zwieg, an attorney for Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro L.L.P., said. The firm is representing the CDD.
Mr. Zwieg said the monetary value of damages alleged in the suit will be determined during the discovery phase. He added that interest in the suit has been high, but declined to comment on additional plaintiffs.
CDD President Chris Knox said the defective systems present a safety issue because they force drivers to use their mobile device manually instead of using voice commands. He said Ford should discontinue the MyFordTouch system instead of trying to improve it.
"Ford needs to scrap it, not update it," Mr. Knox said in an interview.
Ironically, the CDD claims on its website that the Ford Motor Co. Fund, a charitable arm of the auto maker, is a founding sponsor of the organization. A spokeswoman for the charitable fund confirmed that it had issued a grant to the CDD.
This report appeared on the website of Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.