DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is introducing an upgrade to its MyFord Touch infotainment-controls system after problems with the system hurt the automaker in quality and reliability reports from Consumer Reports magazine and in J.D. Power and Associates surveys.
Ford officials say the new version will have simpler graphics, more intuitive screens, faster voice recognition and easier-to-use controls.
The upgraded system will be launched in the 2013 Ford Escape, Flex and Taurus, which are scheduled to go on sale in spring.
But owners of vehicles with the existing system won't be shut out. Early next year, Ford will send flash drives with the upgrade to about 250,000 owners of vehicles with the existing system.
Those owners can install the new version by plugging the flash drives into the USB ports in their vehicles. The upgrade takes about 45 minutes to install. Owners can also take their vehicles to dealerships for the installation.
After the introduction of MyFord Touch last year, Ford held four customer clinics with about 100 customers each, according to Jennifer Brace, a Ford engineer. The upgrade is based on input from those clinics.
Ford redesigned the on-screen buttons with larger, bolder fonts and a more three-dimensional appearance. AM and FM radio now have separate buttons. Low-priority information has been removed. Ford updated the appearance of more than 1,000 screens.
Voice recognition speed has improved and voice commands have been simplified.
The new system is compatible with the Apple iPad and other tablets via the USB connection.
"We knew when it went to market that we needed to improve it," said Graydon Reitz, director of Ford global electronics and electrical systems engineering.
"With the original system we ended up providing an intimidating environment where everything was harder to find," said Gary Jablonski, manager of Sync platform development. "Customers called the old system stressful and the new system relaxing."