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Ford Aims To Turn Tide With Focus on Quality

DETROIT — Recognizing that the company's very survival is at stake, Ford has renewed its focus on the topic of its old "Quality is Job One" advertising slogan — building cars for which the company need make no excuses with regard to the quality of design and execution.

Domestic manufacturers have previously dismissed comparisons to quality leaders Toyota and Honda with comments such as, "Our customers haven't indicated a concern with that," neglecting to admit that too often that the customer was Hertz and not a retail buyer.

But for the development of the Fusion , Milan and Zephyr (now MKZ ), Ford engineers pulled out all the stops to build a "no-excuses" car, and the results have begun to show. These cars scored well in J.D. Power's Initial Quality report that scores early customer satisfaction and this week showed solid scores in the just-released Consumer Reports reliability ratings that measure durability. Customer satisfaction with the quality of interior materials is often a critical factor in determining perceived quality, and Ward's Auto World named the Fusion's interior the best in its segment.

"We had this very clear mission," said Enrique Delannoy, assistant chief engineer. "Our team was setting out to build a no-excuses vehicle for our segment," he said. "We wanted a clear competitor to the Accord and Camry ."

That meant that the cars were designed from the beginning using high-quality materials and with designs that reduced the opportunity for errors in assembly or failures on the road. In some cases more expensive materials were specified, and in others components were designed with fewer parts to lessen the likelihood of incorrect assembly or emergence of annoying rattles later on, Delannoy explained.

In another example, computer modeling uncovered issues with radiator hose installation that could cause some factory workers to fail to install the part correctly. That concern was identified when the car was still a design on a computer, rather than on the factory floor, or worse, in customers' hands. "When you are capturing these issues in the virtual world rather than the physical world, you avoid the consequences," remarked Cheryl Rozier, head of Ford's virtual build program.

The result, according to Ford, is that the number of Fusion owners who report no problems at all with their new cars is 46 percent, which is very close to the 49 percent of Toyota Camry buyers with no problems. That number marks a significant improvement for Ford, which trailed Toyota by seven points previously.

What this means to you: Domestic products are making significant strides to close the gap on the Japanese quality leaders, so you can now go back to choosing cars based on style and drivability. Line

Ford Aims To Turn Tide With Focus on Quality
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