'Polished Turd': Docs Show What Ford Engineers and Execs Really Thought About MyFord Touch, Sync

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Customers welcomed Ford’s Sync3 infotainment system with all the enthusiasm of a child running across the tarmac to greet a returning serviceman, and with good reason.

The automaker’s MyFord Touch and Sync systems, launched at the beginning of the decade, caused irritated customers to pull out their hair and join together in a 2013 class-action lawsuit. Court documents obtained by The Detroit News now show that the frustration at Ford went all the way to the top.

In the documents, Ford engineers fret about the system’s many flaws, calling it “unsaleable.” They describe a later update — cobbled together with the help of Microsoft engineers in the wake of very harsh reviews — as a “polished turd.”

The problems plaguing the system were well-known before the technology hit the market in 2010, the documents reveal. In one company email sent before the launch, engineer Dominic Collella remarked, “Those poor customers.” Another commented that the proposed background image of Ford’s Oakville assembly plant should have a sign reading “abandon hope all ye who enter here” above the door.

The 2012 update didn’t win many fans in the engineering department either. In addition to the “turd” comment, another engineer called it “lipstick on a pig.”

While engineers worked to improve the systems, Ford executives found themselves in the same position as the brand’s customers — annoyed, frustrated, angry. And in one case, violent.

CEO Mark Fields, then president of the company’s Americas division, had a rough go with the system. The documents show repeated incidents, including failure to sync his phone with the system, and many touchscreen crashes. Fields referred to the shutdowns that plagued his Edge SUV as the “dreaded black screen.” In one incident, it seems the executive landed a knockout punch on the disabled hardware.

The system’s lead engineer, Kenneth Williams, reportedly received a photo of Fields’ smashed screen, accompanied by a message claiming the executive “may have been a little aggravated with the system.”

According to the documents, it seems Fields was the system’s harshest critic. After a 2013 complaint about his supposedly updated system, Fields went off in a company email, writing, “Is this for real … do our customers literally have to wait for a fix until July!!! I started experiencing this back in early January … I don’t even use the system anymore.”

Triple exclamation mark.

Apparently, Fields wasn’t the only executive to vent frustration over the technology. Executive chairman Bill Ford and brother Edsel Ford both aired complaints. In one incident, Bill (great-grandson of Henry) found himself stranded in an unfamiliar area after his touchscreen bit the dust, disabling his vehicle’s navigation system.

Consumers in nine U.S. states have waited some time to get their pound of flesh, but they’ll have a little longer. The class-action lawsuit goes to trial in California in April 2017. In a statement, lead plaintiff’s attorney Steve Berman claimed, “At best, what consumers paid for amounted to a pricey inconvenience, failing to live up to even the most basic of Ford’s gilded promises. But in the worst scenarios, the failed MyFord Touch system’s defects can be a hazardous distraction to drivers.”

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

More by Steph Willems

Join the conversation
2 of 70 comments
  • Pickypilot Pickypilot on Oct 08, 2016

    Perhaps they should take a lesson from Tesla. Huge screen that's easy to use, extremely intuitive and it eliminates all the other controls in the car except the glove box and the hazard buttons. We love ours. By comparison, we looked at buying a new Maybach and even the salesman couldn't figure things out. The car had more switches, buttons and other controls than an antique theater organ. Tech is great but keep it understandable.

  • Vstudio Vstudio on Oct 10, 2016

    I've read awful things about the SYNC system, but in my experience with two leased Ford Explorers (2013 and 2016 models), I have nothing but good things to say about the system. I found it reasonably responsive, intuitive to use, and surprisingly free of big issues. Voice recognition works fine, navigation is ok (not quite Google maps), phone features and climate controls - all is there and works. Compared to Audi, Chevy/Cadillac, or BMW, the SYNC just seems better thought through. Maybe I got lucky?

  • Wolfwagen What I never see when they talk about electric trucks is how much do these things weigh and how much does that detract from the cargo-carrying capacity?
  • Wolfwagen I dont know how good the Triton is but if they could get it over here around the $25K - $30K They would probably sell like hotcakes. Make a stripped down version for fleet sales would also help
  • 3SpeedAutomatic You mentioned that Mitsubishi cars had lost their character. Many brands are losing that that element as well. GM is giving up on the ICE Camaro and Dodge on the ICE Challenger. There goes the Bad Boy image. Might as well get your teeth pulled and dentures put in place. Would like to see a few EVOs with cherry bomb exhaust and true 4 cylinder BIG blower turbos; 4 wheel drift capacity is mandatory!!🚗🚗🚗
  • Tassos Here in my overseas summer palace, I filled up my tank twice in May, at 68 and 52 euros (a full 90+ liter tank fillup has taken 130-135 Euros in the past, and I am 23 miles from downtown here, while only 1-2 miles in the US)Still, diesel here is MUCH cheaper than gas. Yesterday, I paid 1,488 a liter while gas was at least 1,899 (regular).Multiply by almost 4 for gallons AND by an additional 1.1 for $.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic IIRC, both China and the EU use a standardized charger connection. About time the US & Canada to follow.Would take some of the anxiety out of an EU purchase and accelerate adoption. 🚗🚗🚗