Ford’s new mid-size cars among best in quality
J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Initial Quality Study ranked Lincoln Zephyr second in its segment, Entry Premium Car. Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan were ranked above industry average in their segment, Midsize Car. Fusion placed fourth in the crowded vehicle segment.
Earlier this spring, Ford received results from internal surveys showing that Fusion customers, after driving their new cars for three months, rank their vehicles on reliability equal to or better than best-in-class competitors. Brian Vought, former chief engineer who oversaw the Fusion, Milan and Zephy launch, says there was no magic in what was accomplished. There was discipline.
"We set high objectives, used existing tools and processes, and tenaciously chased every single issue — as soon as surfaced — until it was resolved," said Vought. "The team adopted the mindset that good enough, isn’t good enough. It was a lot of hard work and attention to every little detail by a lot of extremely dedicated people."
One thing the team did differently was to require each engineer to obtain approval from his or her functional chief on their component or system test plan. About 90 percent of the plans were changed following the review, eliminating potential costly and time-consuming redesigns and additional tests later in the program.
The team also readily embraced every possible quality-enhancing process and tool that it could find. There was considerable focus on fundamental design because Vought believes that many times the simplest solution is the best solution.
"For example, you don’t need triple and quadruple seals on doors to achieve good wind noise," he explained. "What you need is good basic design of a primary and secondary seal that works to its maximum effectiveness."
Good communication and teamwork were also critical to the successful launch. Team members worked together to solve issues and make necessary design changes, even if those changes cost money. "There could be no compromising quality,” Vought said. “In the end, though, we were able to manage our costs to hit our financial targets for the program.”
Vought says the most important thing he learned from this launch is that he now knows, without a doubt, that Ford can introduce a new vehicle with quality levels as good or better than any competitor.
"We can compete with the best. The tools are there. The processes are there. You just have to have the attitude and the commitment," he said.