Ford has long claimed that “Quality is Job 1,” though it has taken a drubbing in recent months for some nagging problems that have seen it tumble on quality and reliability surveys.
The maker intends to aggressively address such “isolated incidents,” Ford’s new Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields insists. That notably includes the maker’s Sync and MyFordTouch infotainment technologies which have come in for some of the sharpest criticism. But Ford will also have to deal with a variety of other problems that have seen some of its newest models repeatedly recalled in recent months, including a variety of recalls.
“We’ve had a few issues,” acknowledges Fields, who until a few weeks ago served as Ford’s President of the Americas. “When we see a problem we go at it proactively to address the issue as quickly as possible.”
Among those issues, Ford has had to recall its new Escape crossover four times since launching the 2013 model mid-year. That includes three problems that could lead to engine fires. One of the recalls also involved the all-new Fusion sedan, both vehicles sharing the same 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine that was the heart of the problem.
“In the case of the recent recall, we tried to minimize the inconvenience for our customers,” he contends, noting Ford’s effort to provide loaner vehicles for all impacted Escape and Fusion owners.
Meanwhile, Ford has continued to experience complaints about its Sync and MyFordTouch technologies – the latter also known as MyLincolnTouch in the maker’s luxury line. Problems with those infotainment systems resulted in a sharp drop in Ford’s standing in the off-quoted J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey, or IQS, as well as Consumer Reports’ widely-followed vehicle reliability study.
Automakers find themselves in a bind. Consumers are generally demanding more advanced technologies – but they also routinely find them difficult to use. J.D. Power officials note that issues with infotainment and other digital systems collectively comprise the single-largest source of complaints in the latest IQS.
“Customers want technology in their vehicles to do more and more,” says Fields, “But, at the same time, they don’t want it to be that VCR that blinks 12 o’clock at them.”
Ford recently released a major update to the software used in its touch and voice-controlled infotainment systems that Fields claims has already generated positive feedback. And he pointedly insists that Ford is “fully committed” to the technologies.
Despite taking some well-publicized hits, Fields contends the maker hasn’t seen its halo tarnish. Ford emerged from the recent recession with significant momentum, many buyers motivated by the fact it was the only Detroit maker not to take a government bailout.
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“Our brand favorability is very healthy,” said Fields, who added that the real test “is how are our new products doing in the marketplace?” And there, he stressed, Ford’s newest offerings, such as the Fusion and Escape, have some of the best transaction prices in their segments, and among the lowest inventory levels.