Ford ties Honda, Toyota in initial quality survey
Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
Ford Motor Co. is in a dead heat with Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. in terms of initial vehicle quality, according to a study the automaker is expected to release Monday.
The report is based on an annual survey of thousands of new vehicle owners conducted for Ford by the RDA Group, a market research firm based in Bloomfield Hills. The study looked at 2008 model cars and trucks from all full-line manufacturers. Drivers were asked to list any problems they had encountered during their first 90 days of ownership.
RDA has been conducting the annual survey for Ford since the late 1990s. The marketing firm conducts similar studies for other automakers, and its findings have historically hewed close to those of the closely-watched annual initial quality survey independently conducted by J.D. Power and Associates.
Previous year's studies have shown Ford narrowing the quality gap with Japanese automakers. This year's report found that Ford is now in a statistical dead-heat with Japan's leading carmakers, according to a source who had reviewed the numbers.
Ford confirmed the existence of the report, but would not discuss its findings.
Ford plans to tout its quality gains in a new marketing campaign that will launch Tuesday night with advertisements on Fox's popular "American Idol." The ads will use real Ford employees and consumers to pitch Blue Oval cars and trucks.
The shape of things to come was revealed on a new Web site, www.driveoneford.com, which went live on Thursday. Ford has not publicly announced the new site, but revealed it to employees and dealers Thursday.
"For several months now, the Ford team in the U.S. has been working on new ways to tell the story of our strong product lineup, improved quality, and our accomplishments in safety, fuel economy and technology," said Ford spokesman Jim Cain. "We're very close to finishing the first phase of work, so we felt the time was right to give our employees and dealers an update on the project, which will include new advertising with the theme 'Drive one' and other initiatives which will help introduce more consumers to Ford vehicles."
The multimedia-heavy Web site focuses on the four pillars of Ford's new marketing strategy: "Drive quality," "Drive green," "Drive safe" and "Drive smart." They are designed to highlight the automaker's quality gains, environmentally friendly technologies, safety features of its vehicles and technologies like Sync, the voice-activated computer system it designed with Microsoft Corp.
Ford also is incorporating more direct marketing tactics into its new campaign. It is organizing more than 1,100 "viewing parties" at customers' homes across the nation in conjunction with Oprah Winfrey's "Big Give" television show on Sunday.
Ford party hosts will work with their guests to come up with a charitable program for their community and will also introduce their friends to their new Ford vehicle in at-home test drives. Ford will pick one idea and give that group $25,000 to implement it