To Tell the Truth: Ford's Quality Guy Talks to TTAC
Even before I pronounced Ford’s “new” Focus a one-star car, FoMoCo PR had suggested a little tete-a-TTAC with one of their quality guys. Well fair enough. This website is always open to opposing or explanatory viewpoints– especially from the people who make the whips that fill our editorial crosshairs. And so it came to pass that Ford’s Manager of Global Quality Data Systems and I spent a little quality time talking about quality issues. As you might guess from his title, Mike Hardie is a combination data cruncher and messenger, rather than Ass Kicker General. But his dedication to his job is beyond reproach– even if some of the products under his purview aren’t. Part One below, with a special guest appearance by Anne Marie Gattari, Communications Manager for Manufacturing and quality.
KatiePuckrick, Mike Hardie did say "rate" of claims. There's some indication that the new Fusion has pretty good field experience (although the TrueDelta numbers didn't look all that good to me). If they've built it right, this will save them money and win business. That would be reflected in the claims "rate." Unless someone was lying. Nooo... However, Hardie's discussion of what "quality" meant included measures of ultimate consumer satisfaction. And the things he then talked about didn't go far enough. The consumer isn't as impressed by the warranty claims rate as other things, like long-term reliability and durability. If I knew, for an absolute fact, that the car would go back to the dealer three times in the first year to correct manufacturing mistakes but that the car was built to go a quarter million miles without anything wearing out and mostly looking good doing it, those three trips wouldn't bother me all that much. On the other hand, a car that's always flawlessly built but will self-destruct when the warranty runs out... not interested. And people that buy a new car every few years care about this, too, because the used market looks at long-term reliability and durability and prices the cars accordingly.
I was surprised when that lady entered into the conversation. Like his call was being monitored.
If Ford's largest product line worldwide is their trucks, then their trucks should be the absolute representation of their design and manufacturing capabilities. The F150 has been on the market, relatively unchanged, for over 4 years. And the Ranger is the saddest excuse for a truck available. Further, if the volumes of F150's are as high as some say, then that would explain why their overall quality ratings would be so low. Crappy Product + Millions of sales = High defect ratings. If Ford is truly at the same level as Honda, then he should have said; "Focusing on the automobile market only, we're above Honda in quality, but our F150 sales are 100 times that of the Ridgeline so an accurate overall comparison is not possible." But he couldn't say that without breaking down in laughter now could he??
I was amazed at Mr. Hardie's tepid, unfocused answers to Mr. Farago's questions-- and his utter lack of demonstrating any vision for quality improvement for FoMoCo's products beyond the old-line fit-and-finish checklist of 30 years ago. If I were Mulally, afer hearing Mr. Hardie in this interview, he'd be gone. There's no way Ford can get ahead of the competition when interviews like this prove it constantly is on an learning curve, playing "catch up." I do believe the committment is there, but where's the vision? The real hunger to be be ahead of the pack?