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Ford's phone drop-out

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

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