Ford Exec Anticipates Drop in Quality Ratings
Ford CEO Alan Mulally told reporters that he expects a “mixed” performance in JD Power’s 2011 Vehicle Quality Ratings, which are due out later this month. According to Automotive News:
Ford last quarter missed quality targets because of glitches in new models and high-tech, touch-screen dashboard controls…introducing new models such as the Focus and Fiesta small cars have stressed Ford’s manufacturing and engineering systems
Ford owners with the “MyFordTouch” system – an electronic touch-screen based control system for many vehicle systems like the stereo and climate controls – have reported screens “blanking out,” and the system has received poor reviews from both Consumer Reports and The New York Times.
The question is, are problems with new models and fancy electronics going to seriously hurt Ford’s quality ratings at JD Power, or is this warning much ado about nothing?
JD Power Quality Study 101
There are two JD Power quality studies that the auto industry pays very close attention to:
- The Initial Quality Study, which measures the number of problems reported within the first 90 days of ownership
- The Vehicle Dependability Study, which surveys the owners of vehicles which are 3 years old – and which they bought new – and asks the owners for a list of problems they’ve had in the previous 12 months.
Many people in the auto industry contend that JD Power’s Initial Quality Study heavily penalizes manufacturers who innovate. An example might be BMW’s iDrive electronic vehicle control system (similar to the MyFordTouch system, albeit less advanced back in the beginning), which debuted back in 2001. At that time, BMW was the only car company in the world that offered such a sophisticated system, and for that they should be commended.
However, when BMW released the iDrive system their JD Power quality ratings dropped. The reason? While that first version of the iDrive system definitely could have used some refinement, BMW’s biggest mistake was releasing this system on the 7-series, a vehicle that was most popular with older, less computer-savvy consumers. When JD Power came calling, these new 7 series owners were all too eager to report problems with a system that they didn’t completely understand (and that was often functioning correctly).
This is the same reason that Ford’s CEO anticipates a drop in quality ratings. The new MyFordTouch system really isn’t difficult to use (I like it), but there are some bugs in it…and there probably are some consumers who just don’t “get” the system and assume that it’s broken. Combine the bugs with the consumers who don’t understand and it’s BMW’s iDrive quality rating fiasco all over again.
Of course, Ford’s CEO also mentioned that quality issues with new product launches (Ford released a new Focus, Fiesta, and Explorer) will hurt Ford in JD Power 2011 Initial Quality Ratings.
Whatever the cause, it’s safe to assume that Ford’s rankings in the 2011 JD Power Initial Quality Study will not be good. Why else would Ford’s CEO be apologizing before they’re announced?
Filed Under: Auto News