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What Went Wrong With Ford Quality?

Maker boosts sales but takes a hit with “bleeding edge” technology.

by on Jun.24, 2011

A Touch of the devil? Problems with the MyFordTouch system hurt the maker's overall quality score.

Ford Motor Co. wants to function “more like a consumer electronics company,” CEO Alan Mulally has repeatedly stressed, something the maker is backing up with an array of in-car technologies that notably include the popular Sync infotainment system and the latest iteration, MyFordTouch.

The focus on what some call “bleeding edge” technology has paid off in many ways. Mulally, for one, has repeatedly keynoted the Consumer Electronic Show three times, an honor more traditionally granted the likes of a Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. And Ford suggests that Sync has been a major factor in the buying decision for many customers, especially younger motorists who expect to be connected 24/7.

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But there’s a downside, as the maker was reminded this week.  Ford was pummeled in the latest J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, a closely-followed measure of out-the-factory-door quality.  (Click Here for the full report on IQS.) Just a year ago, the maker shot to 5th place, topping rivals like Honda and Toyota to become the highest-ranked mainstream brand.  But this year, Ford plunged to 23rd, behind not only the major Japanese brands but long-time quality laggards like Chrysler and its Ram truck brand.

“Ford dropped notably last year,” said Dave Sargent, the head of global research for Power, the California-based market research firm, adding that, “If it weren’t for MyFordTouch, we wouldn’t be talking about Ford.”