|Bradford Wernle covers Ford Motor Co. for Automotive News.|
DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. said today it is rolling out its MyFord Touch infotainment system on its 2013 F-series Super Duty pickups, due in dealerships late this year.
That's big news because the F series is Ford's biggest selling vehicle by far, and MyFord Touch has been the company's biggest headache.
Ford's truck customers will get something that customers of other MyFord Touch vehicles don't get: four real climate control and radio knobs, and numerous audio preset and climate buttons. Those will serve as an alternative to the touch screen and Sync voice commands that MyFord Touch offers.
The lack of such knobs and buttons on other MyFord Touch-equipped vehicles has been one big consumer complaint about the controversial system. MyFord Touch has hurt Ford in consumer surveys such as those by Consumer Reports and J.D. Power.
MyFord Touch will come as a standard feature on the upper-range Super Duty series models including the Lariat, King Ranch and the newly announced top-of-the-line Platinum series.
Ford says it is offering the large knobs and buttons because truck customers are often wearing work gloves and the knobs make the controls easier to use. What Ford didn't say is that many customers who buy Ford cars, SUVs and crossovers and who do not wear work gloves while operating their vehicles also would like knobs and buttons.
Asked if Ford was considering offering the knobs and buttons on other MyFord Touch-equipped vehicles, Ken Czubay, Ford's vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said: "This time it's only with Super Duty."
The 2013 F-150, also debuting later this year, will get MyFord Touch as an option.
The new Super Duty trucks will feature the latest version of the MyFord Touch system, which features a host of improvements over the much-complained-about first generation. Those improvements include larger fonts, less cluttered screens and quicker response times.
Ford did not reveal prices for the 2013 Super Duty. Brian Rathsburg, F-series marketing manager, said the Super Duty models account for about 30 percent of F-series sales.
With the Platinum series, Ford takes a step up in the luxury pickup wars. Platinum customers will get heated and cooled seats -– with 10 separate settings -- and a wood-and-leather heated steering wheel.
Truck customers tend to be loyal. Their loyalty helped return Ford to profitability after the dark days of 2009. By offering them a choice of real knobs, a touch screen and voice commands on its pickup trucks, Ford has shown that it isn't willing to put that loyalty at risk.