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Ford Misses Quality Targets, Feels Pressure: Report

2011 Ford Explorer

2011 Ford Explorer

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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.

[Bloomberg, via Autoblog]

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Comments (8)
  1. Consumer Reports admitted giving Toyota above average quality ratings in past merely based on their reputation. They didn't even test the cars. Should anybody believe a thing they have to say now?

  2. Like Michael, I find CR evaluations to be extremely suspect. I suspect that older buyers find the new technology daunting, but not the kids. Kids aren't buying many new cars these days. CR consistently downgraded Mercedes for technology issues because they didn't like the Comand System which isn't great but better than many others. Also, they devalued Mercedes because of complaints about brake dust! European cars used softer brake pads, but stopping performance is super vs others. Wash the car! CR plays to the lowest common denominator treating cars as if they are only appliances with differing levels of luxury/cost. America is very much an auto driven culture and most, save for the environmentalists, look at cars as expressions of our ego

  3. Like Michael and Jim I agree that CR evaluations are suspect and biased. I wouldn't put one ounce of credence in anything those "Paid-off Commies", say. A neighbor bought a new Explorer and is not experiencing any of the problems mentioned above and he is 60 years old. Although, I like my new Durango better than the Explorer, I find no fault with the Explorer whatsoever. Both vehicles are beautifully built, lookers and hated by those "Commies", at CR. I really don't think most intelligent people pay too much attention to them.

  4. @rickmyers, I drive somewhere around 60 press fleet vehicles each year, and I'm with your neighbor in regards to Ford's Sync / MyFordTouch systems. Color coding is a great way to distinguish phone commands from navigation commands, audio commands and general information. I've never had a blank screen in a Ford vehicle, so my own experience differs from that of CR.
    Also congrats on your new Durango - I drove a Durango Citadel a few months back and was suitably impressed. Dodge is definitely making an effort to improve product quality, and the new Durango is a prime example.

  5. Sounds like there should be a CR Report on CR themselves?

  6. I'm glad I'm not the only person aware of CR's early commie history, and as mentioned, why should anyone care what a consumer magazine who can't be bothered to test products says (Toyota).
    Why does no one ever mention CR's survey's, which are only sent to its own subscribers? How large is the sample size for a car like the Chrysler Sebring vs. Toyota Camry? The smaller the sample size, the more suspect the data. It's like a political survey that asks questions about Obama that was only sent to Democrat households... Likely to be biased!

  7. When Ford sells a new car with Sync or My Touch, they should offer a class for the technically challenged folks who buy (or before they buy) the cars taught by competent people since the sales folks don't know anything about these new interfaces. It would be far less expensive than trying to change what is available.

  8. @Jim, Ford does exactly that now, but it took them a while to realize it was necessary.

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