In a recent survey conducted by the Global Quality Research System (GQRS) which studies initial quality rankings for all of the major auto manufacturers, Ford Motor Company scored higher than Honda for the first time on record and was statistically tied with Toyota. What does this mean for the beleaguered Dearborn auto manufacturer? Well it may mean that it’s time for them to reconsider bringing back the once joked about tag line that says “Quality is Job One.”
Who would have thought even four or five years ago that the quality challenged folks at Ford would one day be putting forth a serious challenge to their Japanese competition? And this isn’t just some fluke result brought to light by one survey. For the last two years Ford quality has been improving by leaps and bounds with other surveys like those done by J.D. Power & Associates. Ford also has more of its vehicles “recommended” by Consumer Reports than GM and Chrysler combined. A large part of a vehicle attaining “recommended” status has to do with initial and long term quality results.
The low point for Ford truly came around the year 2000 when the Firestone/Ford Explorer recall was splashed all over the cable news stations and newspapers. In addition to that embarrassing story, Ford was saddled with a record number of recalls on its other vehicles. There really weren’t any quality bright spots in their entire lineup.
But that all began to change when auto industry outsider Alan Mulally took the helm at Ford at a time when it seemed as doomed as the Titanic when it sped into the North Atlantic at full velocity. Immediately Mulally set about “right sizing” the company by closing plants and renegotiating union contracts that were slowly bleeding the company dry. He also set about revolutionizing Ford’s engineering, corporate and parts buying culture in a drive to improve quality.
But by far his most brilliant move was lining up billions of dollars of credit leveraged against most every asset the company had, including the logo. Given the current state of the market and that it is nigh on impossible to secure credit, his foresight seems increasingly inspired. If only Mr. Mulally had been working the lookout post for the Titanic that fateful night. Maybe they would have seen that iceberg after all.
Just in the first quarter of this year, Ford saw its initial quality rankings improve by a whopping 5 percent. To put it in real terms, Ford experienced 1228 problems per 1000 vehicles sold compared to Honda’s 1441 problems per 1000 vehicles sold. The new F-150 was launched with an average of only one problem for every vehicle sold. That is an incredible statistic as Fords in the past were notorious for having horrible first year quality ratings. Hence the “quality is job one” tag becoming a big joke.
In specific model classes, Ford led the way in initial quality with the Mustang, Taurus, Taurus X, Ranger and Mercury Milan. The Mercury Milan is the badge engineered twin of the Ford Fusion so quality levels for the two should be similar.
For many years I was a service advisor at various Ford dealerships. I stopped working for Ford in 2005 and by that time I had grown so disgusted with their seeming lack of interest in making a quality product that I vowed I would never buy one of their cars or trucks. But after seeing their improvements in recent years and their highly dynamic new model line I have rethought my previous notions. As for buying a Chrysler? They have a little more convincing to do to get me into one of their dealerships.