Customer Satisfaction and Quality

Quality and customer satisfaction together are a central mission of all of our employees. Ford has consistently improved quality over the past decade. In 2010, we tied as the highest-quality full-line automaker in North America, according to the Global Quality Research System assessment of initial vehicle quality.1 The Ford brand also had the highest quality of any non-luxury brand in the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study.

Delivering high-quality vehicles is of paramount importance to customers’ willingness to consider our vehicles; it also affects their satisfaction and loyalty. Quality is also important to our costs – high-quality vehicles have lower warranty repair costs. We include quality as one of the four design principles2 that guide the entire design and manufacturing process for our vehicles. It is also central to our sales and service operations. As part of our efforts to improve quality, we have built three key kinds of quality into the brand DNA of all our vehicles: basic quality, or the fundamental reliability of the vehicle; performance quality, which includes attributes such as fuel economy and quietness; and excitement quality, or those unexpected convenience features that surprise and delight customers.

Measuring Quality and Customer Satisfaction

We track our progress in achieving this mission through a combination of internal and external measurements that assess how we are doing and where we can improve. The Global Quality Research System (GQRS), which tracks “things gone wrong,” is our primary quality survey. It is implemented for us by the RDA Group, a market research and consulting firm based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. We also subscribe to J.D. Power and Associates’ Initial Quality Survey and APEAL study. And, we track warranty claims and costs internally. In 2009 and 2010, we saw an improvement in both the internal and external measurements of quality. By several measures, our quality is now competitive with the highest-rated brands. Global and regional quality improvements are detailed in this section.

Global Quality System

We use an extensive Global Quality Operating System at every stage of vehicle development and manufacture, to make sure that our vehicles have world-class quality and performance. Our Global Quality Operating System was fully rolled out in 2008 after several years’ implementation. Though we have always used quality systems, they were not always standardized across locations. By requiring standard processes and implementation everywhere we operate, we are continuing to expand our world-class quality results.

We begin designing for quality from the very earliest stages of every vehicle program. Approximately three-and-a-half years before a new model rolls off the assembly line, we virtually “pre-assemble” the vehicle, to identify and address potential quality issues at the beginning of the design process. This allows engineers to make corrections – and ultimately improve build efficiency, worker safety and quality – long before the vehicle design is finalized and built on a real assembly line. By using this virtual quality system, we have cut time-to-market by eight to 14 months, depending on the vehicle program, reduced costly late engineering changes, and are building fewer – but better – physical prototypes.

Once vehicles pass these virtual quality tests, we undertake extensive testing of actual vehicle prototypes for both manufacturing and performance quality.

Even after our vehicles have left the factory, we continue our efforts to improve quality. We evaluate every manufacturing-related warranty claim and migrate effective solutions into the assembly plant. We also gather feedback from our customers using survey tools, to ensure that we understand customers’ problems with our vehicles, including actual product failures and customers’ opinions of vehicle designs and features.

We use a Six Sigma process to resolve quality problems. In 2007, we completed our effort to integrate Six Sigma quality methodology into the Company’s core processes. We now have Quality Functional Leaders who assist every organization within the Company in the implementation of Six Sigma problem-solving methods to improve quality and eliminate waste. Around the world, we have 95,000 Six Sigma “green belts,” more than 10,000 “black belts” and 550 “master black belts” – Ford employees trained in how to apply Six Sigma principles and methodologies.

  1. The GQRS study is conducted on a quarterly basis, with scores assessed from survey responses collected from vehicle owners by the RDA Group, a consulting firm.
  2. The other principles are safety, smart technology, and fuel efficiency and green design.