Ford Moves Up In Quality Survey

June 2007 News

By Sharon Silke Carty
USA TODAY

DETROIT - Although Ford Motor was the only domestic automaker to rank above industry average on J.D. Power's influential Initial Quality Study released a couple of weeks ago, industry watchers say domestic automakers remain close to closing the quality gap with import automakers.

Of the top 12 brands, three are owned by Ford, including Lincoln, which ranked third. Import automakers topped the list, with Porsche in first place and Toyota's luxury brand Lexus in second.

Meanwhile, General Motors and Chrysler posted mixed results.

Buick, a GM brand, showed improvement, while GM's Cadillac brand fared worse. Chrysler's Dodge and Jeep brands struggled to pull off new launches.

Still, the problems recorded by the IQS are far less serious than they were 20 years ago, says Jeremy Anwyl, president of car-shopping site Edmunds.com. Then, the quality gulf between best and worst could have meant the difference between owning a brand-new car that didn't start or owning one that worked as promised.

"Today, we're talking about loose power window switches" as problems, Anwyl says. "I'm not sure if it's that big a deal for consumers like it was 20 years ago, when the product gap was huge, and the problems were more serious."

The consumer survey asks buyers to rate their vehicles 90 days after purchase. Quality issues are broken down into two categories-physical defects, which can be fixed at the dealership; and design defects, which make the car more difficult or unpleasant to use.

Rankings are according to problems reported per 100 cars. There was a 79-point difference between the top- and bottom-ranked brands. Porsche had 91 problems per 100, while Ford's Land Rover, at the bottom, had 170.

Ford scored much of its success by launching nearly flawless new products, which can be a challenge for carmakers. Neal Oddes, director of product research and analysis at J.D. Power and Associates, said 48 percent of reported problems came on all-new or redesigned vehicles.

Ford's Wixom, Mich., plant won the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing vehicles with the fewest defects. It's an award that hasn't gone to a North American plant since 1999.

Ironically, the last Lincoln Town Car rolled off the assembly line last week. The Wixom plant is being shuttered.

Several product launches tripped up Chrysler, says Joe Ivers, executive director of quality and customer satisfaction research for J.D. Power.

The Dodge Nitro was "very problematic" for them, he says, as was the Jeep Wrangler and Chrysler Sebring.

Sam Locricchio, a spokesman for Chrysler, says the company was challenged by 10 new launches for the 2007 model year.

Initial Quality Rankings

 

Nameplate

Problems per 100 vehicles

Porsche

91

Lexus

94

Lincoln

100

Honda

108

Mercedes-Benz

111

Jaguar

112

Toyota

112

Mercury

113

Infiniti

117

Ford

120

Scion

123

Hyundai

125

Kia

125

Industry Average

125

Buick

127

Chevrolet

129

Volvo

129

Acura

130

GMC

131

Nissan

132

Saturn

132

BMW

133

Pontiac

133

Saab

133

Subaru

133

Cadillac

135

Audi

136

Chrysler

151

Suzuki

153

Mitsubishi

155

Dodge

156

Volkswagen

160

Jeep

161

Hummer

162

Mazda

163

Land Rover

170

Source: J.D. Power

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