2016 Ford Escape owner one of unknown number with radio problem

Four months after Carolyn Neilson brought home her brand new Ford Escape, she’s frustrated that the car radio too often won’t work and the dealership seems unable to fix the problem.

'Just fix my radio and I’ll be happy'

Carolyn Neilson complained to CBC about her new Ford escape's radio, which worked only some of the time. (CBC)

Four months after Carolyn Neilson brought home her brand new 2016 Ford Escape, she's frustrated that the car radio too often won't work and the dealership seems unable to fix the problem.

"We noticed sometimes we'd get in and turn the key on and the radio wouldn't work. And the next time if we shut the car off and turned it on, it may work. It may not," Neilson said.

She bought the car in December and the problem appeared in January when she made the first of four visits to MacPhee Ford in Dartmouth, the dealership where she bought it.

In early February, when it was clear the issue wasn't going away, she started keeping a record of the dates and times the radio did not work — at least 91 times since Feb 7. Since then, she calls MacPhee Ford every time the radio fails.

Carolyn Neilson has kept a record of the 91 times she's called the dealership to report her radio isn't working. (CBC)

No one can help

"I asked them to replace the radio and they told me they don't know if it's the radio and it would cost about two thousand dollars to replace the radio," she said. She asked them to replace the vehicle but says she was told she may have the same problem in the next car.

She said Ford Canada told her to talk to the dealership and report the instances when the radio doesn't work. She's frustrated, especially since her new vehicle is still under warranty.

"I think it's ridiculous because I paid for a car. I thought I was getting a good car and nobody's willing to do anything about it," Neilson said. "Their warranty is no good. If they can't fix my radio what if something else goes wrong?"

Andrew MacPhee, general manager of MacPhee Ford told CBC News Ford Canada is aware of the problem. He said it is a programming issue that he cannot fix.

Ford Canada: "Do not attempt repair"

MacPhee provided CBC News with a Ford Canada notice sent to dealers. It said, "Some 2016 Escape vehicles equipped with AM/FM/CD or Sync with a 4.2 inch screen may exhibit a blank screen and no audio after a crank event [turning it on].  Engineering is currently investigating this concern through the quicker service fix (QSF) process. Until a new service procedure and/or parts are available do not attempt repair."

The notice says the problem has been found in two Escape models.

Neilson recently discovered pushing the on-button twice does activate the radio but she said that shouldn't be necessary and Ford should send a letter to Escape owners informing them of the potential problem and when to expect a solution.

In an email to CBC News, Ford Canada spokesman Matt Drennan-Scace wrote, "We take all feedback from our customers very seriously and are looking into their concerns."

He was unable to provide details of how many vehicles across the country are affected or when a fix might be ready.

Not the first time

George Iny, executive director of the  Automobile Protection Association, said while this is the first he's heard of this particular problem, it's not the first time Ford has had problems with its entertainment systems. He says this newer technology is supposed to have fewer bugs.

"It's one of many, many complaints Ford has been having roughly since 2011 with their in-dash SYNC technology. Several Ford models have been affected and often, in the earlier years, with far more crippling malfunctions than what is described here," he told CBC News.

Iny said it may take six months to a year for a car maker to work these things out.

"They're not priorities because the car isn't disabled," he said.

He suggests customers communicate by email or in writing to ensure they're covered in case there's a time limit on the availability of the upgrade.

"What you don't want to happen is the clock to run out on you for the free repair or upgrade."

As for Carolyn Neilson, she said she just wants a solution.

"That's all I'm asking," she said. "Just fix my radio and I'll be happy."

About the Author

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days, she's focused on helping consumers get the most bang for their bucks and avoid being ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca.