Ford's Uphill Battle Selling Quality

Posted by: David Kiley on April 9, 2008

2007_Ford_Fusion_ext_1.jpg


Ford is about to kick off a new ad campaign, themed, “Ford. Drive One.”

One of the cornerstone pieces of information back-stopping the campaign is a report from RDA Group of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. that says Ford’s quality as reported by customers in the first 90 days of ownership, is statistically equal to Honda and Toyota.

While RDA does not pack the credibility with car shoppers as Consumer Reports and J.D. Power and Associates (JDP is owned by BusinessWeek parent McGraw-Hill), the findings do not differ wildly from CR’s and JDP’s most recent rankings.

And Ford says it’s quality rating has gone up 8% since last year as measured by RDA.

In Power’s 2007 Initial Quality Study, which also tracks problems reported by customers in the first 90 days, Ford scored 120 problems per 100 vehicles. That was good enough for tenth in the ranking, and behind Toyota at 112 per 100 vehicles and Honda at 108 problems per 100. Ford’s Lincoln brand actually scored third best at 100 problems per 100. Mercury, the vehicles of which are mechanically identical to Ford vehicles, scored 113 problems per 100. Such narrow differences are pretty statistically inconsequential.

J.D. Power’s 2008 rankings come out in June.

Ford’s problem, like GM’s, though, is narrowing the perception gap between Detroit brands and Toyota and Honda. Those Japanese brands have been at or near the top of Power’s ranking for years. And they have the advantage of being a kind of default brand for people who have felt burned by poor quality Detroit, Korean or even German brands.

Both companies say changing perception to match current reality about quality is there most perplexing problems

I recently got a call from a friend in New Jersey who wanted my counsel on buying a new car. Ready to trade in a 2000 Buick Century, and having had a 1990s Taurus before that, they wanted to know about Kias because they know a Kia dealer. I talked to them about the Honda Accord, as well as the new Chevy Malibu, the Ford Fusion and Edge and the Toyota Corolla. In a subsequent e-mail, my friend told me his wife said emphatically, “No More American Cars!.”

That’s a perception problem when a couple in their 60s coming off a Buick and a Ford feel better about a Kia than a new Ford or Chevy.

Reader Comments

Gumby

April 9, 2008 1:59 PM

Americans buying imports are actually lousy workers trying to look better by driving one... Americans are hyprocrites. Soon enough , we will be hiring foreign lawyers, executives, doctors, technicians, government workers, teachers... Just dont ask why we are not coming back to Ford and GM, but why we are so bam bam dumb during this period of recession that can only go deeper and deeper.... This is the worst time to ask question.. Ford marketing team can be summariily fired and a foreign marketing team hired like pronto...

Gumby

April 9, 2008 2:11 PM

remember me? I hear you are suffering from Alzheimers' disease, right?
Do we count metallurgical coal effects on global climate change as steel is made and turned into weighty cars and pickups??? Why is it that we dont look at aluminium as a great green initiative because it helps cars and pickups go further on a gallon of gasoline. Why add too much weight to cars and hybrids with hybrid mechanisms and batteries. I believe that aluminium is the best logical next step toward fuel efficient cars and pickups!!

Gumby

April 9, 2008 3:08 PM

I am tired and fed up with Wall Street playing bitch games with my investments especially in GM and Ford so I decide to talk down Ford and GM until Wall Street lose those crucial stock suckers in no time. It is time for Wall Street whores to just quit smoking and spreading legs at me...

Noz

April 9, 2008 9:31 PM

Gosh, the FORD is now as reliable as a HONDA or Toyota for the first 90 days! Wow and Gee Whizz! I suppose I should not ask where Ford has been for so long. Guess I will skip dinner and rush out the the Ford Store and buy one. Trade in my super-reliable/absolutely trouble-free for over two years now HONDA Pilot in the process. I trust that the salespersons will be out there trolling for suckers with their nets. An RDA-claimed 8% increase in quality over a very low number is really impressive for those unable to find their way out of a wet paper bag.

Kiley, I can understand your friend's thinking about "No more American Cars". It is an well-earned/deserved concept. The Failing Three have been practicing for years now, poisoning their own waters with unreliable rolling junkers. Both in actual fact and in comparison with the ever-improving competition. And you are right in your mentioning the problematic German purchases. Over-priced, over-hyped, built for far more than our highways allow, let alone that our typical drivers can handle. I really have to laugh at MB, the chances they have had and blown, and how they worked so hard in killing it off their former rep with the usual sloppy engineering and unloved German arrogance. In my neighbourhood, the MB is still popular, ever increasingly so with the flat-beds that haul them off to the dealers for yet another extended stay while they are fixed again. Reminds me of the Olde Fiat Translation. Ford as well.

By the way, I hope your friends chose the HONDA. either the Civic EX or the Accord EX. There is no better value for their bucks. And most are made right here in Barbaria. Here on the Left Coast we still get the 4-cyl Accords from the Saitama plant in Japan. Fine with me. Bring 'em on, or more to the point, in.

Billy

April 10, 2008 12:29 AM

Since you're so into demeaning Kia, why don't you put up some solid figures for Kia as well? Kia hasn't been making cars for 100 years...experience counts for nothing anymore? Ford screwed themselves up the arse by ripping off fellow Americans like myself for literally decades! Now their cars are better, but still over priced. I've switched to Asian brands, in particular Korean brands which have served me pretty well so far. If the Koreans can fix things so quickly at such reasonable prices, why not Ford? Oh yea the UAW...which wouldn't have been a problem if Ford and others didn't screw it's employes as well!!! Yea yea, similar story in Korea, but I'm not Korean! Stop comparing apples to oranges. I think I speak for many when I say that no matter how much Ford's have improved, they simply put a really bad taste in my mouth and I will never go back to American brands. They tell us to buy American by telling us we should support America, well, shame on them all for trying to force patriotism with overpriced crap for so long. Goodbye American brands, you did it to yourselves. Good luck in automotive hell you greedy bastards.

Driving Fords

April 10, 2008 8:24 AM

This blog addresses a geniune concern for American automakers. I own a couple of Fords, having bought them more as a consideration of price than quality. For Ford to succeed, it needs to sell its products at the prices Toyota and Honda demand. Before I could pay top dollar for a FoMoCo product, I would need to hear the sort of long-term reliability stories that Civic and Corolla owners circulate. Until then, consumers will require heavy discounts on Detriot iron. (As a sidebar, it's sadly ironic we still call Fords Detroit products. My Mercury never touched Michigan soil.)

James

April 10, 2008 2:09 PM

It's going to take a decade (or more) of consistent (and improving) quality for any US automaker to win back the home crowd. But, by all means, Ford should definitely toot its horn.

Now, about the slow pace of new product development in Dearborn... maybe that's how they have been baking in quality? We have been waiting for the Flex for how long now? How is it that GM can import its European products for Saturn and Ford cannot? Badge 'em Mercurys and you can call it a day. The Ranger is old, the (new) Focus is just leftovers, the Crown Victoria... 'nuff said.

Lastly, high quality > highly refined products. The Mustang needs an independent rear suspension, plus a much less crude interior. No Ford offers paddle shifters, not even a Tiptronic-style gear lever. Where's DSG? It would only enhance EcoBoost performance and fuel efficiency.

Bob

April 11, 2008 7:03 PM

Most cars are decent in the first 90 days in terms of defects, but it is the longer-term quality & durability differences between American marques and Toyota & Honda that are significant. For this reason, initial quality surveys are virtually useless.

American car companies have caused their own decline, with the UAW abuse of entitlements underpinning the whole mess.

I've owned both American and foreign makes, and worked inside both Japanese and American/UAW auto manufacturing companies. I've also repaired numerous vehicles from all of the big makers (as a professional mechanic). Ford, GM, and Chrysler can spin all the spin they want, the fact is that they still build inferior products, hamstrung by the UAW. I'll not buy another of theirs.

Any company that builds and sells junk like the 1988 Ford Tempo deserves to go bankrupt, imo. (Yes, I owned one of those too.)

Jim Ferraro

April 14, 2008 10:21 AM


Ford does a lot of things right, but quite a few wrong.
The edge is a disaster of fit/finish....very unimpressed.

I went and looked at their lease residuals, terrible!!!!!
You can lease $10-12,000 more car for the same money with another brand.

One of the best ways to calculate quality is through residuals.

Noz

April 14, 2008 12:04 PM

I can't but wonder if any of the over-paid heavily insulated 'suits' with the Failing Three ever glance at these blogs. And if they do, what their thinking is. Or is open and honest product criticism within the ranks in Detroit simply a pre-resignation under pressure move? One also has to wonder what their 'stuff' would look and work like if its engineering was 'reviewed' for flaws and then the vehicles manufactured by Toyota and HONDA right here in the USA (or Mexico/Canada), just to name two who are succeeding against what were once lousy odds. Granted errors in assembly are common, the sloppy uncaring work by UAW members who are concerned even less now than before about product quality.

As to GM and its importing Euro models, the vast majority have been failures. In its infinite wisdom, GM dumbed them down in a variety of ways to 'better fit our market', then eventually quietly discontinued them. Never a good move. Those buyers who drove these cars in Europe often did not fully recognize what they bought by name here. This in sharp contrast to what they might well have bRought here--shipped home wrapped in red tape.

As to the economy, we are a credit society, always perched on the edge, the proximity to the cliff varying with the times. But getting the black ball rolling is not difficult once the media has it in its claws. The TV nightly news beating its drums, pundits writing their negative comments, and sooner than later buying slows, layoffs come, buying slows further, more layoffs, and the far-leftists win another round or more. This while blaming the party in power at the time, of course. The script is olde and moldy, highly destructive for certain, but remains unfailingly effective.

Ben

April 14, 2008 12:32 PM

Ford is the laziest of the Big 3. Just take a look at Mercury and Lincoln, whose models are just rebadged Fords. It has taken rebadging to another level of laziness. While the Edge may be a very nice Ford, it's a very ugly Lincoln. Those of us living outside of Michigan may buy a Ford for basic transportation but Mullaly & Co. are delusional if they think we will buy another Ford as a luxury item. And Mercury? It doesn't have any reason for existence. Consumers, at least outside of Michigan, are not as stupid as they think.

All the little good news about Ford from Consumer Report and other agencies will make Mullaly & Co. feel so good they will go to sleep for a long time. That's how it has always been at Ford. Does anyone remember that the Taurus beat the Camry not too long ago? While Toyota contiued to refine the Camry, Ford slept on the Taurus and let it slide into obscurity.

Ford has never been a pioneer since the Model T. It always waits for the competitors to come up with something new and then scramble to build copies. So the new Taurus is nice and the Edge fine. Big deal! They are at least five years late. And instead of builder killer cars, they are just "me too" copies. And, by the way, Ford's competitors are more willing and better at building "me too" cars.

A lot of people really wanted Ford to succeed but it has broken too many hearts. They have stopped caring.

ford reviews

April 14, 2008 4:08 PM

We have a ford reviews page that consumers can check out:

http://www.thecarconnection.com/vehiclereviews.asp?Make=Ford&Model=&Year=

cody

April 15, 2008 5:59 PM

Wow, the bias on this page is suffocating. Dont you think supporting American cars a little more might turn things around for them in the future as well as for our economy?


From Kiley: Bias? Explain

Encinoman

April 16, 2008 4:11 PM

I have owned my Mustang GT convertible since 1996 and love it; want to rehab seats when I have money. Also really like our 2004 Lincoln Aviator, which is nicer than comparable Explorer.
Now I'm trying to convince my wife (who also has a 'no-American cars' bias due to our horrendous Jeep Grand Cherokee) to get a hybrid Mercury Mariner or Mazda Tribute to save on gas.

cecilia

May 1, 2008 12:56 AM

I've just been told that the brake rotors on my almost 2yr old F-150 need replacement after 27,000mi. Dearborn office said they are only good for 18000mi and the dealer wants to install new ones at my expense ($850.00!!!) So much for quality. I find it incredible that Ford has the gall to compare its products to Toyota and Honda. Tell the truth Mulally!

Andy

May 1, 2008 12:27 PM

Having owned a Camry and now an Accord and Focus, I have to say that I have been very happy with the quality all my cars, especially my 2002 Ford Focus (which is still running strong at 106,000 miles).

There is no debate on the quality offered by Toyota and Honda, but shouldn't we at least keep an open mind and give the American companies a chance to narrow the gap? I'm not saying that you should rush out and buy an American car, just don't jump to a conclusion that all American cars are junk. Times change, maybe in the next 5 or 10 years Ford and GM will be offering some superior vehicles.

paul

May 3, 2008 8:39 PM

Gumby, I am little surprised with your comment regarding buying American cars. Check out where most of Ford is made compared to some Hondas and Toyotas. Some toyotas has more % of it cars made in the U.S. than Ford.

The main reason the quality for "American Cars" is horrible is due to the fact companies are run by finance who do not let engineers do their work. Most american companies ar ran by finance/accountants which explain the failure.

By the way, I am in finance and I hate how finance tell engineers to cut corners, reduce cost, meet budget requirement.

Lonnie

May 27, 2008 12:18 PM

I find so many of these comments interesting, and frequently uninformed.

Even Consumer Reports, the long-time champion of Toyota, admits that the difference in quality between Toyota and the average American car is small.

Here's a factoid that always seems to get lost. The quality of American cars, all of them (with a few exceptions - like the Jeep) is significantly better now than Toyota's quality was when it established its reputation as making quality cars. Go figure!

Unfortunately for everyone, probably the best bang for you buck in terms of quality and price is Hyundai. I figure Hyundai is on its way to being the new quality leader, unless Ford can translate its initial car quality numbers into long-term reliability.

The best cars I have ever owned, which include two Toyotas, were a 1991 Mercury Sable, which never broke, and a 2004 Ford F-150. Remember that brake rotors can fail for a variety of reasons (as those on my Corolla did), which can have as much to do with how much load you are hauling and how much braking you do as with quality. Actually, braking stress is probably a more significant factor.

American cars do not really need a chance. What they need people to do is recognize that many American cars have, quality, fit and finish BETTER (yes, I said BETTER) than comparable Japanese cars. I will point to two cars that are considered to be phenomenal against their Japanese competitors, the Ford Fusion and the Ford Escape.

Tout Japanese cars all you want. If you use the same standards that got the Japanese to the number 1 spot, you will quickly learn that they are in danger of losing their ranking, if not to Ford, then to Hyundai.

Focused

August 9, 2008 4:57 PM

On a positive note for American vehicles, (where we live and work and make our own good or misery based on our decisions by the way!) I have owned a Ford Focus for 8 years and 115,000 miles and have only needed to perform regular maintenance. No expensive repairs and only a couple of minor service recalls, which ALL brands of vehicles will get. The reason all you import owners think your vehicles are so wonderful is that you actually have been trained for a very long time that you must have your maintenance done, usually by the dealer, or your cars warranties will suffer the consequences. ANY vehicle will last when properly maintained. I know several people who wouldn't think about owning an import because they can't be bothered with routine maintenance and, guess what!, their Hondas or Toyotas or whatever didn't last any longer than the American cars they always drove.
Bottom line, Perception is not always reality!
PS, I also owned a VW for several years, it was a good car too. Properly maintained, which cost more to do by the way.

Doug Welch

October 7, 2008 5:04 PM

I admit Ford let things slip in the 80's and early 90's, I remember my parens having an accord that was rotten in 5 years. We have 6 Fords at home ranging from my ZX5 focus, mustang, Escape, F350, and a couple escorts and you would think one of those 8 vehicles would give us problems, but non of them have, and 2 of the escorts have over 250000 on them. Anyone who is not ready to acceopt that the Japs don't build the best anymore is only putting the blinders on to what is out there. The saying "have you drivin a ford lately" is true, I would take my Escape, or focus and when i get a fusion over anything toyota or Honda puts out. The media is the worst thing the big 3 have going for them, for example it wasnt all over when toyota had to recall all the Echos for rotting floor boards, or when Toyota was buying back Tundras because of weak points in the frame. Im an automotive marketing student in Ontario where we see and hear this stuff first hand.

JC Lately

October 14, 2008 1:08 AM

Geesh people, settle down.

Samuel

October 14, 2008 1:20 AM

None of this matters. In a decade or so called friends from China and India will begin to import cars priced thousands less then the competition and whatever they lack in quality will be smoothed over with generous warranty. To compete Tokyo, Detroit, Soeul, and Wolfsburg will be forced to move manufacturing to China.

Andrew McAllister

October 17, 2008 10:24 AM

This ford is fantastic looking i would buy one any day.

FORD MAKES CRAP

October 21, 2008 12:05 AM

Owned 95 Sable & 97 Explorer. Both bullet proof. Replaced Sable with 2000 Lincoln LS. What a total disaster. Not enough time to write about all problems. 45k list car sold 5 years later for $3k parts on Ebay with 87k miles and transmission in trunk. Then moved on and bought 2004 Explorer Limited with all options figuring the old 97 explorer worked well through 165k miles. Another total piece of garbage, transmission problems (fixed twice), all four wheel bearings, tire pressure lights can never be fixed for more than 30 days, rear axel & differential had to be replaced, chrome falling off all wheels, paint came off hood had to be painted, probably forgetting another dozen things. The punch line.. Never been in accident and only has 65k miles. Most problems occurred between 36k miles and 55k miles all out of my pocket. Probably be selling it on ebay for parts like the lincoln in another year. Ford quality? I can't stop laughing. I can't wait to watch the bankruptcy! Only $2.50 a share left to zero!!!

Barry

November 24, 2008 1:36 PM

I own a 2005 Ranger 3L and have had nothing but repair problems once I reached 90,000 miles. I am a reliability engineer and have been testing home appliances for long term reliability for some 23 yr. I was an owner of 2 other Rangers in 1997 (208,000 and 87,000 miles) and 1 Aerostar in 1995 (152,000 miles) I purchased a 2005 Ranger based on the $700 in maintenance I spent on the 1997 Ranger and "Built Ford Tuff" and "Quality is Job One". In Ford's quest to save money the 3.0L Durotec engines from 2003 to at least 2005 have left side heads that will fail. The check engine light starts coming ON, the engine runs ruff and will stall out. $1400 dollars later after replacing the plugs, plug wires, PCV valve, tech. service found that I had low compression on the driver side head. The Ford dealer replaced the bent valve and had the head rebuild and milled. When I started the truck to leave the dealership, the service technician forgot to attach the gas pedal spring. I went 10' and stopped the truck because the gas pedal was going to the floor. He attached the spring but put in on the wrong side and I still did not have the correct pedal pressure. I knew how the spring was supposed to be attached so I corrected the technician error. In less than two weeks I am blowing 1 qt. of oil every two weeks because they installed the head gasket wrong and it was leaking oil in two places. The Ford dealership resisted checking the head for the leakage. They said I was leaking oil from the oil pan gasket. After I proved the head was the cause of the leakage they took the head back off and replaced the gasket. Before they started this work I asked if Ford had a TSB on this engine. They failed to find one or did not do a search like I asked. After the repair the oil leakage stopped but I the check engine light was still coming ON and the engine was missing. I went back several times and had Ford read the CEL code. The service dept. could not figure out what was wrong. After the check engine light flashed 7 times on a 120 mile trip with sudden loss in power while I was on the interstate I finally went to a different repair shop (Not Ford) and they produced a TSB on the 3.0L engine. Ford knew that they had a head problem and Ford recommended replacing both heads with a redesigned head, gasket and different head bolts with no financial cost to Ford. I showed the TSB to the Ford dealership and they said nothing. I asked the Ford Service dept. to have the left side head replaced per Ford's recommendation and they came back with an additional $778 charge. I felt they should replace the head for just the difference between the cost of the remilled head and the cost of a new head. All labor should be free because they did not follow Ford's recommended fix in the first place. Where is the "Built Ford Tuff" now? There was no notification or recall to the buyers of the Ranger. I feel this is a safety issue that can cause an accident and death. You could be run over on the interstate from behind when your Ranger suddenly looses power because of this problem.

who cares

December 6, 2008 1:05 PM

Ford is lying about quality. They still cannot make an ignition switch and a key. The last ford I owned I spent so much time and money on repairs. Locksmith who had to drill the ignition switch told me over 90% of his business is generated by Ford. Yet when I called and complained to Ford they told me their ignition switches work fine and they have received no complaints. Either ford or the locksmith is lying but locksmith is still making profit so you figure.

All cars are good

January 23, 2009 3:15 PM

The truth is, every company has had their share of lemons, and every company has very successful, reliable models. The fact is if you maintain your vehicle properly, no matter if its a kia or toyota or dodge, it should be just fine. Performance, luxury, pricing, and reliabilty is similar across all auto makers, give or take certain models.

I personally own a Ford because they have been extremely reliable for me, as well as Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Honda. Id just rather put money in americas pocket.

BuyAmerican?

February 27, 2009 10:03 AM

I recently purchased a new Fusion, and have been very happy with it. I previously owned an explorer with 140,000, which I got rid of because gas had went over $4 a gallon. Before that, I had an explorer with over 600,000 miles on it; and it was still going strong. I gave it away, simply because I wanted something newer.

There is nothing wrong with American cars. Yes, there was, particularly in the 80s, where the idea was to drive a car no more than 100,000 miles and then take it to the junk yard. But not today.

Nevertheless, the mindset still exists, particularly among the clueless, who arrogantly believe that they're smarter than everyone else for their foreign-made purchase decisions and feel that driving a foreign car somehow impresses others--the "look at me, I'm driving a Lexus" mentality--with them living in their fantasy land in which driving such makes others say, "Wow[!]" in astonishment.

Meanwhile, because of this rampant and insipid mentality debasing American auto-manufacturers, our economy suffers; for the formerly employed American workers can no longer buy the services and goods of others, leading to a bad trend in the economy. Of course, it's not just the cars that are made elsewhere, but everything else as well. We produce nothing, and buy everything abroad. And yet we wonder why our economy is going South.

At this point, I would like to say, "Buy American!" However, I can't, as my Fusion was made in Mexico, whereas Toyotas are often made in Georgetown, Kentucky.

I don't believe you!

March 4, 2009 12:47 AM

I just saw this Ford commercial, and the first thought that came to mind was, "I don't believe you!". Ironically enough, I decided to enter "Ford Quality" in google and this site came up.

What experiend do I have with domestics? Well..Our first car was a Mercury Topaz, my brother also purchased a Ford Probe that is sitting there beside his Plymouth that he purchased after, my mother then purchased a Chev Cavalier that put her through hell, I then purchased a Plymouth for my sister...whoo hooo problems galore...then I decided to move up and purchase a Ford Focus, buying into Ford's "Oh we've improved..blah..come check us out". What a mistake! I bought the car still new from a dealership..and she was hell on wheels...i finally sold it to a friend to get rid of it!

What am I doing?...I just bought a Toyota Yaris, and so far I've put this car into a lot more tough situations than I put my Ford Focus and she has done awesomely, not to mention the gas mileage!

Ford, and GM and Chrysler for that matter, have a lot more to do to remove the sour taste they put into my mouth. I just recommended my mother purchase a Corolla, and I am glad she listened!

Proud American

March 28, 2009 9:30 PM

Ya bunch of traitors! Go line the pockets of foreign Nations. Oh yes, they build them here, create jobs,employ Americans, but the bottom line is the money goes back to their country! Thus making America broke and foreigners rich! I hope you enjoy living in a soon to be Bankrupt nation!

Most American cars I've had have been fairly reliable. OK, OK so we had two decades of some, junk from the big 3 (80's & 90's) but so have the foreigners!

Smoke on the water

August 7, 2009 4:34 PM

I agree with Proud American, the US Government is going to go bankrupt and the Dollar is going to crash because of
mind less spending on foreign cars and cheap made in China goods. My Ford Edge runs great and me Chevy Avalanche has 70,000 miles on it with out a brake job.
The Koreans will not buy a foreign car because of "economic patriotism", no matter how bad the quality of their cars are. I hope you foreign car buyers are buying gold, silver, guns and food for the coming US economic downfall, I don't think your Toyota or Honda will drive you through this situation.

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

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