Ford: Is Quality Still Job One?

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The first car I ever purchased was a 1993 Ford Escort LX with 24,000 miles on it.  I was 17 and truly thought no better car existed.  The amount of time I put into keeping that Mocha Frost tinted car pristine was surely an indicator of my pride.  In fact, that Escort kept going until many years later when it was involved in a minor collision that lost in the insurance adjustor’s value equation.  The only other car I’ve ever felt that way about since was my Acura RSX.

Over the years, I’ve gravitated towards foreign vehicles and still believe they offer overall better quality, safety and value.  As an example, Subaru is paving the way where social responsibility is concerned, maintains high quality & safety standards, understands their target market(s) better than most and manages to avoid unions and maintain low turnover and highly rated overall employee satisfaction. What more can you ask for?  I’m quite sure they don’t have a magic recipe for success locked up somewhere, so why can’t the Big 3 follow suit?  Well, my kids don’t have much incentive to do things either if they know I’m always there to bail them out.  But, I digress…

I’ve found this conversation strikes quite a chord with people and can earn you a negative badge of patriotism these days.  I certainly wouldn’t consider myself anti-American because I choose tough love (free market solutions) over bailouts and performance based incentives over union inspired learned helplessness.  The way I see it, industry in the United States has a responsibility to maintain competitiveness.  They have the responsibility to identify and respond to various environmental trends and influences. The U.S. automotive industry continues to fail here.  And, their sense of entitlement to my tax dollars is frustrating at best.

Enter Ford…

Out of the Big 3, I’ve always thought of Ford as the top pick.  I was impressed by their denial of government bailout funds, although I think there should have been greater public disclosure of the government “loans” they took.  I’ve seen them take a more proactive approach to managing public perception and have seen a much greater commitment to quality over the past few years. After watching the videos posted to View from the Q, I feel even more confident that Ford is on their way to innovating their way out of the mess that has become the automotive industry.  (Psst, you guys should have listened to Deming… or even to consumers, and you would have weathered economic downturns like bosses!)

OK, so no one would argue Henry Ford’s contribution to industry and I think my refusal to give up on Ford as a company in large part has to do with their salient origins.  My hope for Ford’s future is that they tap into the energy that Henry created with his original vision… a utilitarian mission to make transportation accessible for most through mass production, competitive wages and some “lean” thinking.

Something Bennie Fowler said during the ASQ interview reassured me that Ford will be just fine… He noted that “You really can’t have a great company until you have great quality.”  And, with top-down thinking and support like that, you can’t lose! Ford, I’m rooting for you…

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