PRODUCT QUALITY AND SAFETY
Customer Satisfaction and Quality
When customers purchase something as expensive as a new vehicle, they expect a high-quality product. They also expect high-quality service in their sales, vehicle service and financing experience. That’s why quality is a top priority at Ford and a central mission of all of our employees.
We have worked tirelessly to improve quality over the past decade, and we have made great strides. We use an extensive Global Quality Operating System (GQOS) at every stage of vehicle development and manufacture to make sure that our vehicles meet or exceed customer expectations.
Meeting and Exceeding Customer Expectations
We begin designing for quality from the very earliest stages of every vehicle program. Years before a new model rolls off the assembly line, we define the right features and content to include based on extensive customer research, and we validate that our vehicle designs and manufacturing processes will deliver vehicles that meet or exceed customer expectations. Our engineers use a suite of high-tech design tools and virtual manufacturing technologies to detect and avoid potential issues. We also test vehicle prototypes extensively to ensure customers will experience a high level of quality in our products. After our vehicles are sold, we continue to evaluate vehicle performance and use this information to develop and implement effective solutions. We also gather feedback from customers using survey tools that track and evaluate our quality and customer satisfaction performance.
We have made substantial progress recently with the quality of our vehicles. Our latest “things gone wrong” data shows that our quality is improving in North America and South America and is at best-ever levels in Europe and Asia Pacific. We have focused on improving quality in areas such as infotainment, transmissions and interiors, and these efforts have paid off. We also are working to improve our Global Product Development System to ensure the process improvements we make flow throughout our system, resulting in more-efficient vehicle launches, fewer downstream changes, improved timing and further quality improvements. As a result of these efforts and the migration to our high-quality global platforms, customer satisfaction is trending up.
Addressing Key Issues
Nonetheless, we had some quality and customer satisfaction issues in 2014. For example, we had 40 U.S. safety recalls, which is higher than in previous years. This increase was due in part to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) expanding their definition of safety defects, which has led to the highest number of safety recalls in the U.S. across all auto manufacturers. In addition, over the past several years we have been dramatically increasing the innovative technologies in our vehicles, the number of new models we introduce and the speed with which we release them. These trends also put increased pressure on both our own and our suppliers’ design, production and quality systems. However, while we know that introducing new products and technologies is critical to our business, we also have to take the time to make sure everything about our new vehicles is just right before they go to market.
We are focused on addressing quality and customer satisfaction concerns and delivering on our promises to consumers. We have enhanced our culture of cooperation and focus on solving problems, so that when quality issues arise, we can address them quickly and effectively. We strive to ensure that we learn from every quality issue so that our overall performance continues to improve.
Tracking Our Progress
We track our progress on quality 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 customer satisfaction and “things gone wrong,” is our primary quality survey. It is implemented for us quarterly 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 Study, their Vehicle Dependability Study, and their Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. Furthermore, we track warranty claims and costs internally.