Ford Pursues a New Level of Quality in Its Busiest Year to Date


Many of us have our own new years’ resolutions that have, or have not, broken just yet. Ford has a new resolution as well — probably a few, if we’re going to be honest — but the one this year holds more weight than usual. That’s because the automaker is planning the launches of 23 new models globally before next January rolls around, making for what will become one of Ford’s most prolific and busiest years in its history.

In order to ensure that things go over smoothly, Ford is counting on the strong bond shared by its top ranking executives to help prevent quality missteps from messing with the company’s launch schedule, Reuters is reporting. The publication noted that Joe Hinrichs, the head of North and South American operations, and Raj Nair, who is Ford’s global product development chief, “are two of the key players in what has been an all-out push to stamp out problems that have dogged the automaker in the last few years.”

Not only is 23 launches worldwide the most for one year for the company, but a lot of them are rather high-profile — the F-150 pickup, America’s long-time best selling vehicle, will see the release of its new, lighter self; the new Mustang, overhauled for its 50th birthday, will be making its global debut, and a new Ford Edge, which Ford is also bringing onto the global stage along with the Mustang.

“We have a lot more new product and a lot more new launches than we used to have,” Hinrichs said in an interview with Reuters at the Detroit auto show. “We know how important these launches are.” Ford is also hoping to right a few wrongs from the past, as their vehicles have been plagued with issues stemming from the onboard infotainment systems, and transmission problems. Since the middle of 2012, Ford’s Escape crossover has been recalled a grand total of seven times, costing the company as much as $300 million last year.

To prevent these kinds of issues from throwing the proverbial wrench into what is destined to become one of Ford’s biggest years to date, Nair and Hinrichs are reportedly using the strong rapport with each other that they developed while collaborating in North America and Asia for the last 12 or so years. Reuters says that the work they shared helps them to “divvy up duties and work more effectively,” the duo told the site. “So when a scheduling conflict arises, they are comfortable if one of them has to miss a launch review as long as the other person is in the room.”

“When we look at something, 99 times out of a 100, we’re both seeing the same thing,” Nair said. “A lot of times, we both don’t have to be there because of that — which is important because there’s only so much time in the day,” Hinrichs added.

Hinrichs and Nair both have rather extensive experience with new product launches. Back when they began working together, Hinrichs was in charge of material planning and logistics, while Nair led new model launches for North America. Since ”both of us have been through a lot of launches, we have the emotional resilience that you need to have because every launch is difficult,” Hinrichs said.

Some outsiders have indicated that the relationship of Ford’s upper tiers has proven to be productive when dealing with issues. ”Maybe Ford went too far, too early,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas told Reuters, referring to the problems experienced by its reportedly tough-to-operate MyFord Touch interface. However, “if you have a heart-to-heart with Ford management about the issues, they don’t give you excuses. They’re addressing it. They are not pointing fingers.”