2011 Ford ExplorerEnlarge Photo
In 2010, Ford was the mainstream brand with the fewest quality defects, according to J.D. Power and Associates. Since then, their new Explorer was ranked 17th out of 19 competitors by Consumer Reports, which found the Explorers touch-screen controls “complicated and distracting” (but we disagree). Worse, there are reports of Ford’s touchscreen interface freezing or blacking out entirely. Complaints over wind noise have prompted Ford to update robotic laser inspection systems, aimed at improving panel and door fit.
Even Ford’s CEO, Alan Mulally, is feeling the heat: the automaker missed quality targets last quarter thanks to issues relating to technology and new models.
Mulally calls product quality critical for Ford’s success, so missing targets is sure to draw the CEO’s attention. Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Mulally likened the problems with Ford’s Sync and MyFordTouch systems to one experienced by consumer electronics companies, saying, “We have had just a few issues with some of the newer technologies associated with Sync and MyFordTouch. It’ll be a lot like consumer electronics where we’ll rapidly bring innovation, but also continue to improve it.”
Improvement is key if Ford hopes to score well in this year’s J.D. Power quality rankings, due out on June 23. The automaker is also hampered by a string of new product launches, which have taxed Ford’s engineering and manufacturing resources. Over the past 18 months, Ford has launched new or substantially updated versions of the Fiesta, Explorer, Taurus, F-150, Transit, Mustang and Focus, many of which incorporate the technologies panned by Consumer Reports.
Recognition of the problem is a step in the right direction for Ford, who likely would have glossed over missed quality targets in years passed. The change is largely due in part to Mulally’s philosophy that, “you can’t manage a secret,” and it’s likely that the net result will be improved technology and product quality from Ford.