By on May 12, 2008

2007_iqs.jpgLast month, Ford released the results of a self-commissioned study claiming their initial quality is as good as Toyota's. Well, Toyota ain't gonna take it; no! They ain't gonna take! On their Open Road Blog, corporate mouthpiece Mike Michaels goes to great lengths to explain that the Ford survey isn't the J.D. Power survey– which places Toyota above Ford. However, Michaels points-out that all of these initial quality surveys "deal with problems that surface only in the first 90 days." They're "useful, maybe, if you're going to rent the car for three months" (and God knows how many times we've done that.) Michaels then proclaims that brand loyalty– where Toyota and Lexus rank at the top– is the only true indicator of quality. That's the only way to know "how your car will treat you long after that new-car smell is gone." It's also a great way to know which car company has the most effective brainwashing marketing or the most risk-aversive customers. But there's one question Mr. Michaels left unanswered: why should we believe a survey that placing Toyota over Ford is any more accurate than one placing Ford on the same plane as Toyota when the methodology behind both of them is clouded in smoke and mirrors? Enquiring minds want to know.

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44 Comments on “Toyota: I Spit on Ford’s Quality Claims!...”

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    There is enough data created in the world that you can come up with any oddball conclusion you want and you will be able to find, somewhere in the masses, the right numbers to support it.

  • avatar

    The old “would you buy this car again” question probably is the best single indicator of a good purchase decision, but how do you normalize that for different user groups? I don’t think you can. There will always be people who buy Toyota as the no-brainer, low-maintenance solution, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the highest “quality” car (especially for readers of this blog).

    Plus, I believe all of these pissing contests define quality simply as “fewest defects”, which is shortsighted. My parents’ house is a lot nicer and of “higher quality” than my house, even though it requires a lot more costly and frequent maintenance.

  • avatar

    I agree – 90 day initial quality ratings are just about worthless, no matter where they come from.

    The problem is no on will really know if the 3-5 year reliability of current FoMoCo products is as good as Toyota until 3-5 years from now. So until them, the marketers can make up whatever claims they want, without any basis in fact or way to refute them.

    It’s like Homer Simpson said: Facts can be used to prove anything thats even remotely true.

  • avatar

    As Dr. Phil would say (groan), “the best predictor of future behavior is past performance”, or something like that. I think of my wife’s 1995 Ford Escort with the cracked aluminum head, my 1994 Explorer with the 4th fuel pump replacement that makes up my experiences with Ford’s long term quality. Then I think of my past 1989 Toyota Corolla, my 2006 Corolla and my wife’s 2005 RAV4. So far, so good. No problems yet (knock on wood).

    Ford’s gonna have to do more than just run those embarrassing commercials claiming that their quality is as good as Toyota’s to prove anything to me.

    I’d love nothing more to see Ford succeed, but their irresponsible trend of neglecting cars back in the 90s and earlier this decade in favor of Explorers and F-series trucks is their own dang fault. Great strategy when fuel was affordable. Typical short sighted “vision” for quick profits at the expense of long term growth. Now they’re grasping at straws to regain marketshare.

    Toyota’s earned their quality reputation one vehicle at a time.

  • avatar

    Hmmmmm—-bad mistake on Toyota’s part. No need to respond to Ford’s quality increase claims now as Ford has not properly marketed the claim as of yet. Where is the famed Japanese restaint? I suspect Mr. Michaels will be taken out to the woodshed for letting his mouth and ego give Ford some free publicity.

  • avatar

    What the hey, Pittsburgh, PA is rated the best city in America to live in by some magazine or another, yet for decades people have been bailing out. When the numbers are close they can be tortured into telling any story you want.

    Even if he is a corporate PR flak, Michaels is correct to point out that reliability and durability over the 5+ years the typical new car buyer keeps their vehicle for is far more important than the silly first 90 days metric JD Power has been pounding the table about for all these years.

    Customer loyalty is a very imprecise measure of that longer term quality, but it is an indicator. People normally don’t trade in for another of the same unless they were treated well by their previous vehicle. Of course that isn’t always true. I once traded in a short-lived Oldsmobile minivan for another of the same. I’m still embarrassed about that episode in my sorted past :(.

  • avatar

    Quality number in Automotive publications are used by people after they have made their purchases, to justify there decisions. They make people feel informed and give them amunition for their friends who bought something else.

  • avatar

    “….why should we believe a survey that placing Toyota over Ford is any more accurate than one placing Ford on the same plane as Toyota when the methodology behind both of them is clouded in smoke and mirrors”

    Well, for starters, Toyota didn’t pay JD Powers for their survey results whereas, Ford paid for the survey (in which they came second!).

    The fact is, this is just boys being boys by having a huge pissing contest. “My results are better than yours!” “No, MINE are better than yours!”. Basically, they’re playing who’s got the bigger penis! Meanwhile, the quiet one who’s confident about the size of his penis (i.e Honda) doesn’t feel the need to shout about his “talents” because secretly he’s got loads of satisfied “clients”!

    Toyota are starting to feel inadequate and need to remember why people like their company (i.e humble, sure of it’s itself and produces top quality products). Word of mouth is much more powerful than any survey, paid for, or otherwise. Toyota do produce great products and one only has to check the internet for the ratio of “good” stories to “bad” ones. Now compare that to Detroit who burned loads of customers and aren’t really endearing themselves to present and future customers. I believe that Toyota’s quality is superior to that of Detroit’s, trouble is, Toyota seem to be doubting themselves. Ford are catching up fast, but Toyota has a good head start to stay ahead of Ford.

    I can take some comfort that it was the American side of management that said this and not the Japanese side. I agree that maybe the Japanese side may have a quiet word with Mr Michaels. Had this comment comes from the Japanese side, then, it would suggest that Toyota are losing their corporate culture of humility. One only has to look at the delfection Toyota put in place when people started to suggest that Toyota may be the world’s biggest car maker. (“Being number one isn’t important to us”)

    God, I hate men! I’m going to become a lesbian!

  • avatar

    JThorner: First, add the “H” to Pittsburgh :) Note: I moved there from DC and don’t regret the fact that I can get a house for 1/3 the cost—get to work in 1/3 the time—have 3 pro sports teams to root for (including this years Stanley Cup champs)—and am afforded some of the best medical care in the country. Guess I am good at finding some of those diamonds in the rough.

    Which brings me to Ford (another diamond in the rough)and this quality discussion. Lets forget about the whole 90 day BS and focus on Ford quality for the last 3 years. Every major survey from Consumer Reports, JD Power, to True Delta has documented Ford quality increases over the last 3 years. To ignore this trend is just plain blind and stuck in an 80’s/90’s mindset. To those that need a five year trend—stay tuned—the story will remain the same.

    Katie: No response—you have left me breathless.

  • avatar

    umpterp85: I sure hope so.

    I agree that Ford’s quality has improved. The official town vehicle in Farmington, NM, an oil field town in desert hell is the F-250. Most of Phillips-Conoco’s company vehicles are Fords and they take a real beating on a daily basis.

  • avatar

    Here’s another tidbit: VW has typically ranked near the bottom of every reliability list, and negative word-of-mouth is easily as bad as any car out there. Their dealers are long-renowned for poor service and high prices.

    Yet they saw 12% growth year-over-year in Q1, while virtually everyone else dropped or was flat in the same period.

  • avatar


    Slightly OT, but contrary to popular belief, penis size doesn’t determine sexual prowess, virility or stamina. It’s testicle size.

    For this and other insights into sexual genetics and behavior (including competition for alpha status to secure the best possible genetic legacy (there’s your car link), I highly recommend the book Sperm Wars.

    Carry on.

  • avatar

    Katie: Don’t say that! You’ll ruin TTAC for all your fans!

    As for Ford, “Initial Quality” seems to be “Did the car start at the dealer?”

    We routinely keep our cars 7-10 years, and frankly, Honda/Acura are the only cars we buy. I have NEVER had quality issues, even with the 5-speed auto in my 3.2TL. We’ve had 4 Honda products, and they are simply unbeatable. The one Ford we owned was a nightmare. So bad that my wife will NEVER consider another one. She won’t give up her Hondas for love nor money.

    When Ford, or ANY of the domestics shout about quality, all I do is point to used car vales.

    The market doesn’t lie. If the Big 2.8 made great cars, resale values would be level or higher than comparable Hondoyotas. They don’t and they aren’t.

    Ford should be spending their money on product, not buying massaged data for marketing purposes. The only way they will get a reputation for quality is to build great cars that hold up; their customers will tell their friends and relatives, and ONLY then will Detroit get back in the game.

    Tell a Honda/Toyota owner about Ford’s data and they’ll just laugh. The proof is in the driveway.

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

  • avatar

    Ford’s quality gains are real – they have been documented by independent sources, as umterp85 noted.

    Now the challenge is to make sure the vehicles are exciting enough to get people into the showrooms.

  • avatar

    Shouldn’t quality be measured by the opportunity cost that these teach cars required by the buyers.

    – Overall sales number
    – Price/Trade-in-value/finance cost
    – Repair time/cost
    – Overall ride quality over time.

    It is commonly accept idea that Camcordima is better than MaliTauro___, there isn’t a third one for the American. I think American cars have perception problems but also if you rent Ford cars, their roof liners and interior trims aren’t very neatly put together. Generally, American cars’ interior don’t look very good against the foreign cars. And they don’t refresh their vehicles like foreign cars. Sonata had mediocre interior. After 2+ years, they refreshed their interior and bumped their engine ratings…. I don’t see this often with US-branded cars.

    Vast majority of people vote with their money. It is given that Toyota has better quality than Ford by this measure and by other measures.

  • avatar

    I think Ford is improving, but they still have some lingering doubts, ie flaming trucks and SUVs, Panther platform fuel tank never being fixed and selling an additional cost fix for it, and the fiasco revolving around the plastic ignition pieces that would stall most of the vehicles at random times. It took entirely way too long to recall two of the three, and they’d rather pay out massive law suits than correct the fuel tanks on the Panthers.

    That alone does it for me. It’s going to take at least a good 10 years before I will look at another Ford (after owning two in the past) because they wait way too long to recall issues.

  • avatar

    Honda has the highest percentage of repeat buyers, Ford has one of the lowest and Toyota is second to Honda in that catagory.

  • avatar

    Too bad no one will sponser JD Powers to do a 7 or a 10 year reliability survey. 90 day and even 3 years don’t tell me squat.

  • avatar

    While I agree that the initial quality numbers are not the be-all-end-all of numbers, they do indicate a level of quality. I know that the last few cars I have purchased I sent back a few times to the dealer for something that wasn’t put together right at the factory. After that point, I think it is a matter of durability and the real question should be: what does the long term reliability look like? I don’t know if I would call customer satisfaction the true barometer of quality, look at Land Rover, low quality and one of the highest customer satisfaction rates in the industry.

  • avatar

    Ford for the past 20 years has claimed they’ve made up the gap and are on par with Japanese quality – why should anyone believe them in year 21 especially when their main evidence is from press releases – jingles – advertisements and mottos…but the one hard piece they have showing such is from a study they funded?

    I measure quality by resale value and per capita % of cars still on the road 10 years later. Take the production #s for that year and find out how many are still registered by DMVs and driving (that give’s you a % still on the road and owners paid money to drive them legally). For instance if Ford sold 300k Escorts in 1990 and only 2k are still on the road (crashes, stolen cars, damage beyond owners control aside) that means that some 90% are in the junk yard b/c the cars are so badly broken that it is not worth the money to be restored – nor does anyone care to restore them b/c they never evoked any passion in the owner. Compare that to a 1990 Civic or Corolla which didn’t sell as much as the Escort but there is a huge majority of them still on the roads, people pay / waste money restore them to almost new shape (these are 1.5 liter economy cars) stock or modified, they have resale value > scrap, and they are still very reliable when well kept.

  • avatar

    Ford is really not as good as they claim, take for example the Ford Fusion, when they drilled the Holes for allowing water to drip from the Car’s doors, they placed them too far up and now they are useless allowing after a period to develop Rust in the vehicle! Great eh? No Rust profer can repair this bad design! Fusion owners beware!

  • avatar

    Also with Ford what about the Tie Rod ends in the F150 Truck, never been recalled You have to pay for your own repair, thanks Ford

  • avatar

    Ford proclaims their quality with a publication that misspells Infiniti. No quality checks in the PR spin department? Classic.

  • avatar

    George Labrador: Interesting notion. Do you have a link for support ?

  • avatar

    Hello. Full disclosure I am a salesman.

    Mike Karesh had a interesting article on TrueDelta that spoke abouit how re-sale value can be skewed if you look at M.S.R.P to calculate instead of real transaction prices. The percent of depreciation compared to transaction price may be closer than we think.


  • avatar

    “Torture data long enough and it will confess to anything” – unknown

  • avatar

    I have never owned either, but I did kind of laugh at that Ford commercial and their claim. If it’s true, then good for Ford! But history is not on their side.

  • avatar

    I think we’re seeing a sign of Toyota’s brand weakness. When happens to the reliability car when every maker has similar reliability? (Not that we’ve reached that point yet, but we will, because that level of reliability will become the minimum needed for market survival)

    Toyota has no other image, and when others (truely or peceptually) match it, Toyota is just another car.

    That said, Toyota’s biggest fear is probably Honda.

  • avatar

    “Typical short sighted “vision” for quick profits at the expense of long term growth.’
    An interesting point. How should Ford have handled all the demand for full size pick ups and SUV’s? Should they have notified their dealer body that they could not satisfy all the sold orders because we should be building small cars?

    Katie- you may be in contention to host this years Toyotathon.

  • avatar
    Ralph SS

    I hate women. I’m going to become a…..huh?…what? with what?

    Never mind.

  • avatar

    Toyo has a good point though. What statistic would be a better indicator than brand loyalty that is currently available?

    I wonder if any of the aftermarket warranty services keep good data. I suspect not, but you never know. If they did, you could tell who makes the best cars by using the cost to maintain a 5 to 10 year old one.

    At least for Toyota itself, brand quality is a great indicator. They sold you the car with reliability and quality being the main differentiator. If you come back for another, they have good reason to believe they lived up to your expectations.

    OTOH, Porsche or Mercedes are selling other things altogether, so their customers are likely to come back again because of other benefits.

  • avatar

    Dynamic88 – Toyota’s biggest fear is Honda (many historical perspectives). Toyota tried to stop the company from forming in the 50’s – to starting internal dedicated teams to counter Honda’s products. The founder became very good friends with Sony who helped Honda incorporate with all the political bullying from Toyota. Honda initially started with Motorbikes but Toyota knew he’d start making cars soon. Even to today where Honda is #2 in Japan (quickly overtook Nissan in NA and even challenged Toyota). Then on the racing front Toyota tried to beat Honda in motorsports CART – and paid Ganassi millions of dollars to stop using Honda engines and use Toyota (the dominant team in CART at the time) – then took the Zanardi CART car and displayed it along with all the trophies (basically taking credit for all the wins Ganassi got with Honda power).

    Toyota is very much like GM – gets treatened and will do some very cheap and immature moves to counter it. They like competition so long as it is unable to compete (such as Ford or Chrysler with GM).

  • avatar

    A lot of noise is made over the fact that Ford paid an outside consultant to gauge the quality of their vehicles versus the quality of everyone else’s, and I don’t understand why this is such a bad thing. Wouldn’t you want to measure yourself against your competitors, or are you going to wait until J.D. powers gives you their blessing?

    How else is Ford supposed to advertise in quantifiable terms the improvements in quality they’ve made? Wait for word of mouth to spread? That’s an uphill battle right there. Toyota had the advantage of building their rep from zero. Ford has the disadvantage of starting from sub-zero. I’ve told you how trouble-free my Explorer was, how many of you believe me, and if you didn’t why would it be any different for anybody who has a Ford that’s gone 100K and beyond trying to convince their neighbor that their Fusion won’t have an unexpected death? If a self-commissioned study is what it take for people to at least consider the idea that the ’08 Taurus is nothing like the ’76 Grenada, why shouldn’t they use it?

    P.S. I know these catch phrases are coming so let’s just get them out of the way right now: Engine sludge, exploding tires, crappy transmissions, spontaneous combustion, Pintos, Crown Victorias, rust, did I miss anything?

  • avatar

    If you cant get past 90 days without parts falling off( Yugo, Trabant, and Crossfire excluded)something is wrong. Could you imagine Paint peeling off your freshly painted bungalow and having the painter tell you “hey, it’s 2 years old! It looked ok the first summer, didn’t it?.

  • avatar

    Statistics don’t lie so much as people misread them, sometimes because they are misled, but generally because most people like leaping to conclusions without bothering to look into the details or even carefully read the headline.

    The key is to take the time to look at what question was asked, and of whom.

    If the actual question isn’t provided, that’s a problem. The question is as important as the answer.

    TrueDelta posts the survey forms, the individual responses, and relatively detailed results.

    And Fords from 2006 on do seem as solid as Hondas and Toyotas. Will this continue to be the case as they age? No way to know yet. But TrueDelta will have this answer before anyone else, because we update promptly four times a year.

    The latest results did find one Ford exception: the PTU in the AWD Ford Edge has a leaking seal in many vehicles. We had to split the FWD and AWD in the latest results for this reason.

    Those results, posted today with a press release tomorrow:

  • avatar

    Panther platform fuel tank never being fixed and selling an additional cost fix for it…and they’d rather pay out massive law suits than correct the fuel tanks on the Panthers.

    What are you talking about? There are ZERO problems with the fuel tanks on the Panthers. What other car do you know of that is tested to 75MPH in a rear-end collision…and PASSES?

  • avatar

    p71 Crown vic

    I’m talking about the Crown Vic and Grand Marquis, and no, they do not pass. The State of Ohio just spent close to a million dollars retrofitting the State Patrol’s Crown Vics after 2 (that’s two) officers lost their lives to fires caused by their cruisers being rear-ended.

  • avatar

    The 4.6 and 5.4 2 valve ford engines have problems with the sparkplugs blowing out of the cyl. head because there are only 4 threads in the alum. head. Average cost to replace one head is $3ooo. Ford is not helping the customer one bit. R. F. this would make an interesting topic.

  • avatar

    Well, I think Mr. Mike Michaels is EXACTLY correct.

    There is no doubt about it whatsoever — here in the US we have millions of people who have bought a number of Toyotas over the past 30 years or so, and to a one, they “wouldn’t touch a domestic vehicle with a ten-foot pole.”

    It’s not about a 90-day survey period, and it’s not even about a study of reliability over a five-year period.

    No — GM, Ford, and Chrysler need to show DECADES of utterly reliable vehicles to win these people back, and they have FAILED, FAILED, FAILED. “People who buy those damn things DESERVE all of the problems they’ll have with them.”

    Oh, how DESPISED Toyotas are by the “Murricans” and the “gotta-hemi-innits” and the “enthusiast press.” So, why has Toyota wiped every other automaker on the planet’s butts? Very simply:

    Quality and reliability.

    Oh, “nobody’s perfect,” but Toyota has been more consistently closer to it than any other maker over the past 30 years. While other vehicles have been bursting into flames, tossing their wheels at speed, chewing up engines and transmissions and other parts, and leaving their owners stranded, 5-year-old Toyotas have often been more reliable than many other vehicles when NEW.

    And that’s why people keep on going back and buying their next Toyota, instead of anything else. I agree — it’s the best, most accurate “survey” of reliability you can get.

  • avatar

    mfgreen40, those heads were redesigned back around 2002 or 2003, they now have 10 threads per spark plug hole. Ford realized they had a problem, Ford corrected that problem. Am I missing something here?

  • avatar

    quasimondo Are you sure the two valve head has more threads.I know the 3 valve head has lots of threads. I have seen 2003 with the problem. I think what you are missing is the fact that ford is not helping the customer. A spark plug should not blow out of the head.There are thousands of these customers that after spending $3000 to fix a spark plug will never buy another ford. Plus they tell their friends. This is why ford and gm and crysler are in trouble.

  • avatar

    Orian: I’m talking about the Crown Vic and Grand Marquis, and no, they do not pass.

    I am curious – what other vehicles can survive a 75-mph rear-end collision without a ruptured fuel tank? None to mind immediately…

    Orian: The State of Ohio just spent close to a million dollars retrofitting the State Patrol’s Crown Vics after 2 (that’s two) officers lost their lives to fires caused by their cruisers being rear-ended.

    Again, I would like to know the speed of those collisions. The accidents I’ve read about all had Crown Victorias hit by vehicles traveling at well over 70 mph. The reason you don’t hear about other vehicles with this problem is because they aren’t used for highway patrol duties, and thus aren’t routinely parked along a highway where they can be rear-ended by vehicles traveling at over 70 mph.

  • avatar

    Are you sure the two valve head has more threads.I know the 3 valve head has lots of threads. I have seen 2003 with the problem.

    It’s been documented that with the two-valve and three-valve heads, the cause of the spark plug blowoutws was an inadequate thread count that leaves very little space for the plugs to grab on to.

    I think what you are missing is the fact that ford is not helping the customer. A spark plug should not blow out of the head.There are thousands of these customers that after spending $3000 to fix a spark plug will never buy another ford. Plus they tell their friends. This is why ford and gm and crysler are in trouble.

    That is true and that is unfortunate. However, Ford should not be singled out for this type of action. The 95-99 Eclipse Turbos have a well documented history of eating up crankshaft thrust bearings, killing the whole engine. Mitsubishi never acknowledged a problem. The 92-94 Nissan Sentra SE-R was known to pop out of gear while cruising in 5th, and they’ve never acknowledged it. 96-99 Subarus with the 2.5-litre engine were notorious for blowing head gaskets and all they recommend to the owners was to throw some special conditioner in with the coolant. I didn’t bring up these examples to down Nissan, Mitsubishi, or Subaru, but to highlight the fact that Ford isn’t the only company out there who likes to step back from their products when the clock runs out on the warranty.

  • avatar
    the nicholasdale

    I own Fords and Hondas and perfer the Fords for style and they’re more fun to drive. The Hondas are very practical but I’m more of a fun person and have never been practical (or cheap). Yes the Honda maintains its value but over all I put more money into the Honda than the Ford. BTW, I have never had a single problem with the new Fords or new Hondas besides recalls. Every Toyota and Honda are nothing special to look at and don’t turn any heads. The only reaosn the resale or Honda and Toyotas are higher is because of demand. I bought a used Honda Accord for $4000 and felt it was way over priced and it was a piece of junk. I would never pay high dollars for a used Honda again. Yes it ran if you didn’t want air conditioning, didn’t mind a rusted out exhaust, it shifted wierd and the suspension was shot.

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