It costs less to build them better

Ford, acutely aware that “Fix Or Repair Daily” was becoming more than just a catchphrase, has been beavering away at quality issues for several years now, and Consumer Reports has already noticed the improvement.

Now, so has Dearborn’s bottom line:

Ford Motor Co. may save as much as $300 million on warranty costs next year because of improved design standards and manufacturing technology, the company’s top quality executive said Friday.

That will be in addition to $900 million in expenses Ford trimmed this year because of fewer dealer repairs after cars and trucks leave the factory, Vice President Bennie Fowler said in an interview.

To see how this was working out among actual buyers, Ford ordered up a survey, and the numbers looked promising:

The survey of 60,611 new Ford car or truck owners from September 2006 through February 2007 found 1,427 reports of “things gone wrong” per 1,000 vehicles, 159 fewer than last year, Ford said in June.

The survey, by RDA Group in Bloomfield Hills, found Toyota owners reported 1,362 problems per 1,000 vehicles.

Another RDA tabulation puts Honda at the top, with 1,313 problems per 1,000 vehicles.

If you’re looking for a grain of salt to take this with, here you go:

[I]f automakers were truly interested in determining the quality of their products, they’d survey owners long after the new-car honeymoon had ended. They’d ask for feedback on reliability, fit and finish, repairs, out-of-pocket expenses, performance and how well the vehicle held up overall. If the buyer no longer owned the vehicle, they’d find out why their customer got rid of it.

Which means, generally, that it’s going to take more than a year or two to erase a reputation for slapdash construction. But I submit that nothing is quite so convincing to automotive management as actual cash in the till, and that’s what Ford has here.

(Via Autoblog.)





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