+++ MyFord Touch (MFT) is one of the auto industry’s more controversial features. The media broadly panned the infotainment system developed with Microsoft for its slow responses and reliance on voice commands to navigate its deep menus. Oh, and FORD executives weren’t big fans, either. Newly revealed court documents in a California class-action lawsuit demonstrate the level of venom Ford employees, both big and small, reserved for the Blue Oval’s infotainment system. An error caused Bill Ford’s navigation system to crash, leaving the family scion stuck on the side of the road in an unfamiliar area. The documents, unearthed by Forbes, detail current CEO Mark Fields’ aggravations with MFT, too. A mechanic emailed an image of a cracked infotainment screen on an Edge to one of Ford’s top Sync engineers, Kenneth Williams, suggesting “Mark Fields may have been a little aggravated with the system”. But Ford and Fields’ issues are nothing compared to the woes of the engineers that had to work on MFT. In a collection of emails obtained by Forbes, one engineer called the system “a polished turd,” while another simply said, “These poor customers”. And after one engineer suggested using a photo of Ford’s Oakville Assembly Plant – home of the Edge production – as a background for the system, one of his coworkers said in an email that someone should instead Photoshop the image to read “abandon hope all ye who enter here,” the Detroit News reports. Another summed up the problem, saying: “Ford’s quality reputation is completely on the line … another model year with the same crap is not acceptable”. MyFord Touch almost single-handedly torpedoed Ford’s reputation in widely reported quality metrics, including JD Power and Consumer Reports. Ford responded with a refreshed Sync3, a wildly improved rethink of its infotainment system that is far more responsive and easier to live with every day. +++

+++ The upcoming KIA GT rear-wheel drive-sports sedan finally makes sense now that it has got its core models sorted and transformed its brand, the company says. I believe the South Korean brand is set to finally launch the sporty four-door sedan at January’s Detroit motor show, after years of concepts and discussions, with the coupe model to follow in the near future. Speaking with CarAdvice at last week’s Paris motor show, Kia Motors Europe’s chief operating officer, Michael Cole, noted that now, more than ever, the Kia GT rear-wheel drive sports sedan and its coupe derivative (expected to be called Stinger) fit perfectly into the Kia line-up. “Clearly it’s a vehicle that we believe could, at some point, be a halo and brand product for us and the car still draws a lot of interest from when we showed the concept”, he said. Asked if the GT will form a brand transformation for Kia, Cole argued that in fact the GT will only finalise what has already been a decade of transformation. “I don’t think it’s a brand transformation, but I think as we’ve already made such a transformation for the brand, I think now that would be a very credible halo product to put on top of what we’ve already got. “I think now people will say that ‘yeah that makes sense we understand why Kia has that’, because we’ve built the brand, we have all the core product line, we have GT line and GT in certain models, so I think it becomes a credible possibility”. The Kia GT rear-wheel drive sedan is believed to be based on the same platform as Genesis models, with the four door variant to launch first, followed by a two door coupe. Kia has previously hinted that it will have two models, one powered by a six-cylinder twin-turbo powertrain and the other with a four-cylinder turbo. +++

+++ PORSCHE has put the on-again, off-again 911 hybrid on the back burner. Michael Steiner, the head of the company’s development arm, explained that building a gasoline-electric version of the current 911 using tech borrowed from the sold-out 918 Spyder isn’t particularly challenging. However, Porsche isn’t actively developing a hybrid 911 for road use, and the model hasn’t been approved for production. Steiner explained the bulk of Porsche’s intellectual resources are working on developing the production version of the Mission E concept that debuted last year in Frankfurt. “It at least looks like the market potential on a new vehicle with completely electric (drive) is more than another derivative of the 911. We decided we would do the Mission E as our priority one. It’s in serial development,” he said in an interview with Australian magazine Drive on the sidelines of last week’s Paris Auto Show. Steiner’s comments don’t mean that a hybrid 911 will never happen. He stressed that all options are still on the table at this point, and Porsche boldly announced on one of its official Twitter accounts that it planned to offer a hybrid version of every model in the near future, including the 911. The term “near future” is vague, but many believed it was a confirmation that the 911 was set to go hybrid before the end of the decade. The next-generation 911 is set to debut in 2018, so we won’t have to wait too long to find out once and for all whether or not it’s going hybrid. +++

+++ PROTON and Lotus, both owned by Malaysian conglomerate DRB-Hicom, are reportedly being shopped around to rival automakers. Insider sources have told Reuters that DRB-Hicom has recently sent out partnership proposals to 20 automakers. So far, three car companies have shown interest: Renault, Suzuki, and the PSA Group, which consists of Peugeot, Citroen and DS. So far, only the PSA Group has publicly confirmed that it is in discussions with DRB-Hicom. A PSA spokesman told the news wire, “Peugeot confirms it is responding to a request for proposals initiated by Proton and its shareholder”. No-one speaking on the record has detailed the specifics of the partnership proposals, although Reuters understands DRB-Hicom may be willing to give up majority control of Proton to an interested partner. It’s not known if the partnership offer includes Lotus, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Proton. The news agency’s sources have indicated that DRB-Hicom is open to selling the British company, which not only makes lightweight sports cars, but also has a automotive engineering business. Proton has been struggling of late, with the company’s market share in its native Malaysia falling to about 15 percent. That’s a far cry from the automaker’s peak, when it controlled around 74 percent of the Malaysian market. In April this year, Proton received 1.5 billion ringgit ($480 million) in aid from the Malaysian government. For the 2015 financial year, DRB-Hicom reported a pre-tax loss of around 820 million ringgit ($246 million), most of which was attributed to red ink from Proton. Proton currently operates 2 car factories in Malaysia, with a maximum combined capacity of around 400,000 vehicles per annum. In 2015, the car maker sold just over 100,000 cars. It’s possible that potential suitors will seek to exploit that spare capacity, and use Proton as a manufacturing hub for South-East Asia. +++

+++ The pickup truck frenzy has spread to SKODA as well, and after the introduction of the new Kodiaq earlier this year, the Czechs are reportedly considering the addition of utilitarian vehicles. Speaking to Motoring during the 2016 Paris Auto Show, the brand’s Sales and Marketing Board Member Werner Eichhorn has confirmed that the automaker has its eyes set on a pickup truck, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will produce it too. “Right now if we do a new strategy we can dream about it”, Eichhorn said. “Of course we can think about everything, but finally the feasibility and then the profitability check – the question is how far can you expand the brand. Why not in 20 years to be there, but right now we have to be realistic. If we further extend our product range, let’s find out”. While Europe could be a good starting point for launching a pickup truck that will go up against the Renault Alaskan, North America, which is a large consumer of similar vehicles, could pose a threat for Skoda: “In the US, the local producers are protected and a lot of foreign brands try to go in and mainly fail. We have to analyze what is really possible for a small brand like Skoda, and what it really means to go into another big market”, the company’s official added. As far as taking such an idea and bringing it to the road, the Volkswagen Amarok could serve as a basis for an upcoming pickup truck, just like the Nissan Navara has lend its expertise in the field to the Renault Alaskan and to the upcoming Mercedes-Benz GLT as well. Besides a pickup truck, the Czechs are also considering the launch of a commercial van, but the approach will be exactly the same as in the case of the former: “As I said, right now we are thinking about it, but nothing is decided yet. It’s too early to talk about it. We have to analyze”, Eichhorn said. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN knows it needs to shift towards Electric Vehicles (EV). That was the company’s big message at the Paris Motor Show this year, and the same thing is happening in China. Volkswagen will work with Jianghuai Automobile (JAC) to develop an electric vehicle to take advantage of both rising vehicle sales in China and the impact of the country’s stricter greenhouse-gas emissions mandate. Speaking at the Paris Motor Show, Volkswagen China head Jochem Heizmann said the EV will be of the low-cost variety and will be marketed under a new brand name. Volkswagen signed a memorandum of understanding to work with JAC on a vehicle-making joint-venture last month, and is likely to sign an official agreement by the end of the year. Volkswagen also has joint-venture agreements with SAIC Motor and China FAW Group, with plans to produce a separate EV with them as soon as 2020, but the JAC agreement may allow Volkswagen to have EVs on China’s roads before then. Volkswagen continues to try and distance itself from diesel powertrains as it deals with the emissions scandal that broke last year. Meanwhile, China’s mandate is for automakers to boost fleetwide fuel economy by almost 40 percent between 2015 and 2020 to about 47 miles per gallon. To that end, Volkswagen and its partners will compete against China-based companies such as BYD and Kandi for electric-vehicle sales. Additionally, China may introduce laws similar to California that require automakers that sell more than 50,000 vehicles a year to make electric vehicles within the country. Volkswagen also wants to boost sales of conventional vehicles in China. The company unveiled a China-only version of its Phaeton sedan – called the Phideon – at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year. Volkswagen confirmed at the time that the model won’t be available in Europe. +++

+++ VOLVO has confirmed that it will introduce car-to-car communication technologies across its fleet of high-end models in Europe by the end of this year. While speaking with Automotive News Europe, Volvo senior vice president for research and development, Peter Mertens, said the technology will allow vehicles to exchange important information and has been co-developed with Ericsson. “All vehicles in the 90 series – the S90, V90 and XC90 — will be equipped with it as of the end of this year”, Mertens revealed. Working in a similar way to Mercedes-Benz’s, Toyota’s and Jaguar’s car-to-car communication systems, Volvo’s solution can relay information about road and weather conditions to nearby vehicles. One example is the system’s slippery-road alert which becomes active based on information received from the vehicle’s steering, braking and acceleration sensors. +++

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