About Me: From Ford House to Anti-Ford

At what point we became a Ford house, i.e. our house bought and liked Ford Motor Company vehicles over their contemporary competitors, is unclear for me. Growing up, we had primarily GM products in the form of a Nova, a Duster, and a Chevy Celebrity for the majority of my youth. My older brother was a big fan of Ford Mustangs and acquired a few in his younger years although the steady repair bills from his racing endeavors only left a sour taste in my parents' mouths. But at some point along the way, my parents also began buying Ford vehicles.

Over the years since, we've, as a family, owned dozens of Ford family vehicles. I've had a couple of Ford Rangers and a Ford Expedition. My brother has had several Fords, multiple Mustangs, a Probe, multiple Rangers, and multiple F series pick-up trucks. My dad has owned a few F series trucks as well. My mother has had a few Lincolns, a Ford subsidiary essentially, and currently drives a Ford Escape. My wife's last two new vehicle purchases were both Ford Explorers.

Even without exact numbers, that's a lot of Fords among 5 people.

For the most part, our early experiences with Ford vehicles was positive. None of our Rangers ever had any kind of problems. My Expedition worked fine as long I made sure it had a good tune-up on it. My brother's Mustangs always did well until he tore 'em racing. My dad's trucks were always without fault until he had driven them for thousands of miles well beyond their warranty and over many years after the vehicles had been paid off. Fords were viewed by our family as long-lasting and dependable.

And then the modern era of Ford began.

I can convincingly say that Fords before the Sync era were good vehicles but anything after Ford began incorporating Sync into their different models are little more than rolling garbage. I can say this because any Ford vehicle we owned WITHOUT Sync worked flawlessly for years but EVERY vehicle that we've purchased that include Sync faltered soon after purchasing it.

My mom's Escape had a Sync map update, that had to be purchased separately as updates were not included in the car's purchase price. They purchased the map update and were sent a USB thumb drive with the update on it to use to update their Sync system. My dad put the thumb drive in only to get an error that the Sync system software needed to be updated to a different version before the map upgrade could be applied. My dad looked at the system only to find that the version the error said was needed was the exact version already installed on the system. This was clue #1 that something was funky but we thought the upgrade might be at fault and not the car. We tried multiple installs attempts, worked with Sync support to ensure the files on the thumb drive weren't corrupted, and even had the Sync team send us a new USB thumb drive. Nothing worked.

Eventually, the recommendation came to have the service department of a dealership look at the vehicle and apply the update. They had more tools there to help address any issues that we might be experiencing. Frankly, I think the Sync people just assumed we were doing something wrong and figured a trained service tech would be able to apply the update with no issues.

Boy were they wrong!

The dealership had my mom's car for a week to install what would be a 15-45 minute unsupervised update, meaning that once the update started that it should install itself without anyone having to do anything physically in the car. The tech could start the upgrade and then walk away to do something else while the update was applied. However, they found the update even more difficult to install that we did apparently because they called a week later and advised my dad to come pick up the car because they couldn't get it to work either. The dealership didn't mention until later that the techs had attempted various solutions to fix the issue only to leave the car's Sync system in a worse state than it was when the car was dropped off.

When my dad dropped the car off at the dealership everything worked but the map was out of date. When he got the car back from the dealership the radio didn't work, the controls on the steering wheel linked to the Sync system didn't work, and the GPS maps didn't work. It wasn't that they were out of date but non-existent. Only after my dad called and complained did the dealership reveal their struggles applying the update. My dad complained about the loss of functionality and demanded the dealership restore the system's functionality back to pre-delivery state at their expense. The dealer agreed and the car went into the shop for a second time because of a faulty map upgrade.

This time the car stayed at the shop for nearly 2 weeks before the dealership called and confessed that they still hadn't had any luck fixing the issue and recommended that my dad call the Sync support people, as if we hadn't already done that. When he picked up the car this time the Sync system was all but dead. The screen came on but nothing working. The radio was busted even worse than before. The GPS wouldn't even come on. The steering wheel buttons still didn't work. But now the Bluetooth didn't work either so they couldn't connect their phones to their in-car hands-free system.

This prompted a flurry calls to the dealership, Sync support, and even Ford headquarters. Everyone wanted to play pass the buck and not take responsibility for the condition of my mom's car despite the fact that the Sync system failed to install an update, the dealership trashed the Sync system in the car to the point of complete uselessness, and Ford HQ refused to acknowledge that any of this was an issue. This started a back and forth of emails and phone calls that lasted several weeks until lawyers got involved. Ford HQ still refused to accept any level of responsibility for the faulty system in the car they manufactured and sold. Sync, owned my Microsoft and licensed for use in Ford vehicles, ended up owning the responsibility and the dealership agreed to do whatever was necessary on their end to find a suitable resolution. In the end, Sync paid for a new Sync system to be installed in my mom's car and updated to include the GPS update. They even refunded my parents the cost of the upgrade that took them 5 months to get access to. The dealership did all the work at no expense to my parents and even provided them with a free loaner car to use while their Escape was being repaired.

Now, it might seem that this story had a happy ending, and it ultimately did, but during the 5 months it took for us to fight to get this seemingly simply issue fixed, we discovered thousands of reports online by other Ford owners complaining of the same things. All of them complained that updates would fail to install, Sync system functionality would randomly stop working after an update or after a system reset (a commonly suggested issue resolution from Ford and Sync), or just randomly when turning on the Sync equipped vehicle. We tried pointing this out to Ford as possible grounds for a recall but Ford ignored the input and continued to insist that there were no problems that they needed to address. We even found case numbers other people posted online from where they reported similar issues to Ford only to be told the same thing.

Then comes along my wife. We had purchased her a new Ford Explorer about a year before my mom's Escape went nuts. Within weeks of Ford fixing her car, my wife's Explorer's Sync system started going haywire. At first, it was little things like the Bluetooth randomly dropping connections or the GPS loosing signal temporarily. We should have taken this as a sign of things to come because over the next few weeks the issues only got worse. Inputs to the touch screen began having significant delays, up to 2 MINUTES to take effect. Phone calls would bounce between the stereo speakers and the phone as the Bluetooth connection got more unstable and inconsistent. The AC controls would not work. At first these glitches were only happening infrequently and we thought maybe it was just a software issue that a hotfix patch would be released to address but no patches came out and our problems only got worse. Within a few months of the first issue appearing, the GPS was completely dead on our Sync system and would often show our location as in a completely different region than where we actually were. The Bluetooth stopped working entirely and the only way to use our phones with the hands-free system was to have them hard-wired into the USB port. The radio was so laggy when it came to inputs that it was not worth listening to. It took 1-2 minutes to change stations or even change the volume. The entire Sync system was utterly useless to us and caused more of a distraction to our driving than anything else.

Like before, we contacted Sync about the issue but they recommended we contact Ford HQ. We contacted Ford HQ about the issue that so many others had reported online but Ford HQ only suggested we contact our local dealership to have them run a diagnostic on the system at our expense. The dealership said they would do it but it would cost us nearly $100 just for them to confirm what we already knew about the system, that it might take up to a couple of days for them to do it and that we'd just have to drop off our car until they got around to it, and that we wouldn't have the option to get a loaner while we waited for them to "get around to it." When we asked about our warranty coverage and the cost to replace the Sync system, they miraculously couldn't find any documentation about the extended warranty they sold us when we bought the truck and advised that those rarely covered that type of work and that it would cost us $2000-$4000 to replace the Sync system in car that was less than 2 years old.

We opted to save that money and just spend it on a new vehicle. We did a lot of driving and the GPS, Bluetooth, and radio were things that we used frequently so the idea that the Sync system had gone bad so quickly after purchase and that Ford didn't care that they were selling junk Sync systems spoke volumes to us. My wife and I agreed to get a new car. However, my wife decided that she liked her Explorer and opted to trade in her busted one for a newer model, hoping that the issue had been resolved in more recent incantations of the Explorer.

And boy were we wrong again.

Our newest Explorer made it nearly 2 years before the Sync system starting showing any signs of malfunction. As time passed the problem became more frequent. Instead of happening once every few weeks it went to once every few days and ultimately got to the point of every other crank of the ignition the problem would rear its head.

So what was the latest issue? The entire Sync screen doesn't come on. We got a black screen. Nothing. No GPS. No radio. No phone. No settings. Nothing. Now, we could still connect our phone up via USB and play our music through the stereo and take phone calls like normal but we couldn't see any information on the screen. The backup camera that uses the same screen would still work but the Sync system never booted.

And as before, Sync would refer us to Ford. Ford would claim that they never had any reports or issues with Sync systems that would require a recall and would refer us to a dealer. The dealer would tell us that they would need to have us drop it off so they could diagnose the issue and only then could they tell us what the cost would be despite us having already tried every solution mentioned online from a reset to a recalibration with no change in the issue. If we've exhausted all non-hardware related solutions and our previous experience tells us that the local mechanics at the dealerships are no better equipped or trained on how to handle technical issues compared to mechanical issues then I think its safe to say the only solution would be to replace the unit, which will undoubtedly be deemed to be done at our cost and not Ford's despite the known level of issues the Sync system has experienced across their fleet.

No, instead we have decided that this will be our last Ford product. Before buying our first mistake, I mean Explorer, my wife drove a new Kia Sorento and we absolutely loved it. It got better gas mileage than our Explorers. We never had any technical issues compared to our Explorers despite owning 1 Kia for the same amount of time as 2 Explorers. The ride was great. We loved everything about it aside from the storage space in the back when the 3rd row of seats were up. My wife loves storage space for her job and she wanted more space in the back which the Explorer offered. Had we known then what we know now about the failing durability and total lack of concern regarding customer satisfaction and customer retention that Ford has shifted toward in recent years then I think our purchase choices would have been different.

Ford went from being a reliable manufacturer to only being reliable about the short-term function of their vehicles and reliably not giving a shit about it.

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