Ford Motor has delivered something of a mea culpa regarding the company's recurring glitches with recent vehicle launches – and there is a plan to fix the problems.
Certainly what's been going on at Ford with recalls and such is no secret. Consumer Reports has been quite critical lately and a long list of embarrassing recalls has cast a shadow over Canada's No. 1 auto company by sales: five recalls on the 2013 Escape, two on the 2013 Fusion and the delayed launch of the Lincoln MKZ among them.
Joe Hinrichs, the former head of Ford in Canada and now boss of all the Americas, north and south, is falling back on his roots in manufacturing to address the quality problems and he's moving fast and with conviction.
"We've done a complete analysis," Hinrichs told Automotive News, "on lessons learned in the last couple of years, including the recent MKZ launch, and are now incorporating a number of changes in our development and new-model launch process."
Make no mistake, this sort of problem is right in Hinrichs' wheelhouse. He was a former plant manager and was once head of all Ford manufacturing worldwide before he ran Ford's business in Asia. He's smart and disciplined and personable, which combined with his manufacturing expertise should work wonders at addressing the quality issues dogging Ford now.
His idea is to get more "proactive earlier in the development process." That allows Ford's engineering to fix issues before they get into the hands of owners and the public eye.
Ford is exceedingly profitable these days, and one reason why can be found in the cost cutting – job cutting – done as part of Ford's restructuring. In my off-the-record conversations with engineers, some argue that Ford has cut too many from their ranks and quality issues are the result.
Lately, Ford has launched new models (Focus, Escape, Fusion, C-MAX, and so on) on new platforms and redone whole assembly plants. It's been a fast and furious few years. And it won't slow down, added Hinrichs, saying that Ford will keep running out new models and new platforms at a rapid pace over the next few years.
Oh, and Ford is hiring engineers, by the way. Cost cutting can only go so far before the surgery starts to wound the patient.