After two years of quality perception issues with potential auto buyers, stemming recalls and class action lawsuits related to touchscreens, airbags, engine cooling systems among other issues, -- Ford is now showing signs of a rebound.
Ford’s quality perception became a big enough concern that one year ago, to help turn things around, the company announced that they were tying staff bonuses in with the quality of their products.
Ford began turning its quality perception issues around this past December, around the time the company announced they were replacing their bug-ridden MyFord touch system, according to YouGov BrandIndex data based on potential car buyers. Between mid-December through early 2015, Ford’s quality perception improved from the high 20s to the lower 30s, although they haven’t broken higher in nearly five months, and still significantly short of their early 2013 levels.
For this research, YouGov BrandIndex used its Quality score, which asks respondents, "Is it high quality or low quality?" Respondents were adults 18 and over who are somewhat likely, likely or very likely to purchase a new car in the next year. A score can range from 100 to -100 with a zero score equaling a neutral position.
In early 2013, Ford’s Quality scores ran between the 38 and 40 range, keeping a competitive closeness with rivals Toyota and Honda. After recalling 465,000 vehicles due to problematic fuel-delivery modules, engine-block heaters and missing steering-gear parts, followed by a class action lawsuit filed regarding the MyFord touch system, the carmaker dropped sharply from June to mid-September down to a 26 score. Both Honda and Toyota held steady in the 40 to 42 score range at the same time.
By early March 2014, Ford gradually made its way back to a 40 Quality score, around the time of well-publicized recalls and alleged cover ups at rival General Motors. The GM controversy might have had a ‘negative halo effect on other brands in the industry, as both Ford and Toyota suffered Quality dips during this time period. Ford dipped to 29 while Toyota declined from 40 to 33.
The big blow came in May 2014, when Ford recalled nearly 1.4 million SUVs and sedans, most for the possible loss of power steering. That figure is only 2,200 shy of the total number of vehicles that Ford recalled in the United States during all of 2013. Ford slid from a 27 Quality score in early May to 25 more than three months later.
Since January 1st of this year, Ford has remained steady at the 30 to 33 range, better than most of 2014, but has not returned to its former heights around 40. By comparison, Toyota has a current 39 Quality score while Honda is at 37.