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Ford’s phone drop-out

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    The John Farnham song is supposed to highlight Ford’s new voice control technology...

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Ford’s “You’re the voice, try and understand it” TV ads may have a more literal meaning than the company intended.

The John Farnham song is supposed to highlight Ford’s new voice control technology – but the system was largely responsible for a massive drop in Ford’s quality rankings in North America because of teething troubles.

In Australia, Ford has a communication problem of its own: drivers of new Fords are reporting that their Bluetooth phone connections drop out constantly.

At least one owner claims to have been told by Ford customer service to buy a Bluetooth earpiece. Another, to resort to using headphones.

Plumber Damian Willis has owned nothing but Ford vehicles since he was 21. The 57-year-old tradie has owned a succession of nine Fords and two months ago upgraded to his dream car: a Ford Performance Vehicles GS ute with the new supercharged V8 engine.

But Willis’ love of Fords (he “bleeds blue”) is now being sorely tested. “I’ve lost all confidence in Ford’s built-in Bluetooth kit,” he said. “I have to pull over every time the phone rings, or call people back. It’s costing me time and money.”

Willis uses a HTC Desire phone that he bought a year ago. His phone provider has told him his phone has Bluetooth 3, while the Ford is up to Bluetooth 4.

“But the updates are supposed to be retrospective, it should work,” Willis says. Kelly Duclos is a sales representative who clocks up more than 100,000km a year, drives a new Ford Territory diesel (her second Territory in three years).

She is also experiencing phone trouble – but only after she upgraded the software on her Apple iPhone 4 to the latest operating system, IOS6. “I’m furious, Ford just says there isn’t a fix. I can’t believe they are allowed to say their car has Bluetooth when it doesn’t work,” she said.

“It used to work fine in my old car, I can’t understand why the technology would go backwards. Other people at my work have the same problem. We’re all furious,” she said.

Willis says his Bluetooth connection usually drops out after the first minute, Duclos says she can get up to three or four minutes before losing the signal.

A Ford dealer told News Limited: “There’s no denying there is an issue but Ford is slowly getting on top of it. They’re constantly upgrading the software and the phone compatibility list. In some cases, turning the wifi off can fix it because it can interfere with the Bluetooth connection.”

Ford Australia spokeswoman Sinead Phipps said: “Generally speaking, Bluetooth performance can be affected by new phones coming to market and new firmware being released by device manufacturers.

“That happens a lot more regularly than in-car systems are developed (traditionally with new model upgrades). In the average five-year period a person will own a car, we estimate they’ll have three new phones – with numerous software updates – in that same time frame.

“We are making significant improvements to our Bluetooth reliability with mid-year software updates already this year and a Q3 update recently released into production. “We have a team dedicated to Bluetooth testing to follow devices / firmware as they come to market, which will flow through to periodic updates to our software.

“We have found that Bluetooth reliability is significantly improved by turning off WiFi on the phone and we are working on software solutions to avoid the customer needing to do this in future.”

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 9 comments

  • You can buy a Bluetooth hands free for under $100 that works fine. How hard can it be to fit something that works in a $60,000 car. Ford need to own up to cheap rubbish the are fitting. I would think that the number of people with iPhones alone would make it a priority to make them completely compatible. If you add HTC that must be well over half the phones in Australia. Very short sited.

    Steve Blake of Sydney Posted on 29 November 2013 6:33pm
  • My 2013 focus works fine on Bluetooth, but it disengages the speed limiter all the time! Not good!! And when I took it to ford service after ownership of only 2 months, they said, nothing we can do.... Pretty appalling. So now, to stay under 40kmh I have to get an aftermarket Bluetooth. What's the point!

    John of Melbourne Posted on 23 October 2013 8:17pm
  • I have a 2012 territory and have similar issues, yesterday it dropped out during calls 11 times! Ford keep trying to fix but it never seems to get better. Love the vehicle but today i have decided to sell because of this issue

    Jonny of Nelson NZ Posted on 16 August 2013 7:19am
  • The bluetooth in my FG Mk2 XR6T works fine with my comparably ancient iPhone 3GS (which has BT version 2?). Bluetooth anything has always had compatibility issues between the thousands of devices out there. If the issue happens with every phone, then its a faulty ICC BT module. If it's just one phone in particular... maybe its the phone? Get a different one? Cheaper than switching cars... This article is just making a big deal out of nothing. Paul Gover Jr for sure.

    David of Australia Posted on 18 November 2012 1:16pm
  • I regularly drive a range of hire cars for my job, travelling about the country and if ever there was Bluetooth connectivity you can rely on every time, it’s the Ford system. Holden and Toyota Bluetooth are terrible compared to the Ford system. I have a mate who has a brand new CapriceV and he is extremely frustrated with the Bluetooth because it fails to recognise his phone regularly. A colleague has a new Land Cruiser and he’s fitted an aftermarket Bluetooth system because the Toyota system is so bad and a neighbour has exactly the same issue. Toyota say they know there is a problem and will offer a solution to him when one is available. Additionally, both of the phone and software mentioned have known Bluetooth issues. The HTC Desire has pages of complaints on the web about its Bluetooth and the Apple IOS6 software has such a bad wrap, they have just released an update to fix the Bluetooth problems.

    Aquahead of Great Southern Land Posted on 14 November 2012 11:25am
  • Ahhh Joshua Dowling thge Paul Gover reincarnate and love child

    The Truth Posted on 14 November 2012 9:57am
  • Currently own a 2011 ford mondeo and am using a lumia 900 phone. I have nill issues connecting the Bluetooth and it never looses connection. Have owned 2 previous mondeos a 2008 and 2009 model no problems with the Bluetooth. Have changed phones during these times and had software updates to them always able to connect to Bluetooth each time.

    Ian of central coast Posted on 13 November 2012 7:32pm
  • I have only had a problem when some body turns the radio on when I’m not in the car [usually my daughter] waiting for me I then have to turn the radio of and on again but has work fine other wise, it even reads txt messages clearly my vehicles is a FGMK11 XR6 using a HTC phone.

    Alan Sykes of Eagle Farm Posted on 13 November 2012 1:14pm
  • I have a 2008 Ford Mondeo & when we bought an iPhone 4S, the Ford bluetooth refuse to recognise it. The only response from Ford (local dealer & Ford Australia) was that it was out of their control.

    george of sydney Posted on 13 November 2012 1:06pm
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