Lee Iacocca, head of Chrysler Corporation in the 1980’s, dared to tell the American public, “If you can find a better car (than ours), buy it.” The public bought the premise (i.e., he wouldn’t say it if he didn’t believe it) and sales of Chryslers, Dodges, and Plymouths soared. As a result, Chrysler Corporation emerged from bankruptcy and was even able to pay off a government loan early.
At about the same time, Ford Motor Company came up with a manufacturing mantra for the 1980’s, “Quality is Job #1”. It resonated with other manufacturers but because it was a rather impersonal statement, the buying public didn’t embrace Ford with nearly the same gusto. Still, several of Ford’s new offerings — particularly the Taurus and Escort — did very well in the marketplace.
Fast forward roughly 25 years. Chrysler’s in trouble again, as is Ford. Chrysler no longer has Iacocca but Ford has Bill Ford who “borrows” a page from Iacocca’s book. More importantly, Ford is on much more solid financial ground and can afford to work on improving its products, where Chrysler falls further behind.
Ford has gotten a lot of positive press for their product quality. It’s even said they’re competitive with the overall quality leader for decades, Toyota. Toyota’s only been helping Ford’s case with legions of high-profile recalls over the last few years.
From my own personal perspective, Ford deserves some credit. A few years ago, I’d never have considered buying a Ford but when my wife and I were looking to replace her 13-year-old Durango, we looked at the Ford Edge and about a half-dozen “crossovers” in the same class. Overall, the Edge stood out, so we purchased one not long ago.
Generally, we’re very happy with it. She likes the styling, the ride, the newness (of course), and all the “toys” the Edge has. I’m glad just for the fact that it gets double the MPG of the Durango. I’ve never been all that crazy about the toys, especially the “Sync” operating system. It’s a little TOO loaded with functionality for me. If my wife’s not riding shotgun, I have to pull off the road to use it — and I’m not a Luddite, either.
I used to kid with friends about what it’d be like to get the infamous Blue Screen of Death while driving on I-270 during the evening rush but one time, I thought it was actually happening to me. Sync “decided” to update itself as I was backing out of the garage. It took the rear camera view off the screen and the radio stopped working, so I put the car into “park” to wait out Sync’s update.
This morning, I got an email from ASQ. The feature headline (see the Reference below) got my attention, so I opened the article. Oddly enough, I was thinking about the old ads on how important quality was and I began drawing parallels between now and then.
As I came to realize I’m not the only one in ASQ — or the only one driving a Ford — who has a problem with Sync itself and how it’s marketed. It occurred to me that someone:
- Was so infatuated with this new development that promised to redefine functionality and convenience that it never occurred to them that it wouldn’t be perfect; and
- Either forgot or purposely avoided the voice of the customer.
Ford, which had rapidly become one of the top names in automotive quality, is now in danger of falling from its perch. And why is that? Could it be that they took the issue of quality seriously only as long as it was “necessary”?
Are we occasionally guilty of being more than a little self-serving when it comes to quality? How many of us pursue quality with a passion all the time? How many of us really believe in continual improvement and how many of us pursue quality only when it’s fashionable or convenient?
“New Tech Takes a Toll on Car Quality”, Quality News Today, 24 June 2011 – http://asq.org/qualitynews/qnt/execute/displaySetup?newsID=11557.