Ford Bags Most Quality Awards In JD Power Survey

The Ford Motor Co. bagged five top category awards in an annual survey of new car quality, more than any other automaker, according to J.D. Power and Associates. Ford overthrown the Toyota Motor Corp. and has become the winner of the most category honors in the previous year’s survey.

Toyota dropped to 7th place from 4th place last year in the overall nameplate ranking. Porsche led the overall list, followed by Lexus and Lincoln. The Mercury brand placed 8th and the Ford brand was 7th.

Neal Oddes, the director of product research and analysis for J.D. Power, said that it is the first in a number of years that all three of Ford’s nameplates – Ford, Lincoln and Mercury – surpassed the industry average. None of the General Motors Corp. or the Chrysler Group brands ranked above industry average, although some individual brands made gains compared to the 2006 survey.

The 2007 Initial Quality Study rates overall brand quality and also ranks vehicles within specific segments or categories. Top model segment honors went to the Ford Mustang, Lincoln Mark LT, Lincoln MKZ, Mazda MX-5 Miata and the Mercury Milan.

The Mustang, based on the Falcon compact, is one of the landmark vehicles in the Ford lineup. As a fact, it remains in production after significant revisions. The Lincoln Mark LT, a luxury pickup, is the successor of the Blackwood. The Mark LT, based on the Ford F-150, is built at Ford’s River Rouge Plant. The Lincoln MKZ, on the other hand, is the replacement of the Zephyr. Sales of the MKZ started in September in the previous year.

The Mazda MX-5, also called the Miata, is a sports car that revived the roadster segment of the automaker. The Miata is the world’s best-selling sports car, with over 800,000 units sold. The Mercury Milan, a midsize sedan built on the Ford CD3 platform, is the upscale version of the Ford Fusion. The vehicle features unique front and rear fascia styling, distinctive LED tail lights, modified suspension, enhanced auto interior, projector head lamps and fog lamps, and huge rear doors.

Overall, fourteen Ford product lines placed in the top three of their respective categories. Other top category finishers were Mercedes-Benz and Toyota, which each earned three segment awards. Ford had some excellent product launches for the 2007 model year, Oddes said. Most of the automaker’s improvement came by overcoming defects. The Ford Edge, for example, garnered high marks in the study.

The Edge, a midsize crossover SUV, is based on the Ford CD3 platform, originally introduced on the Mazda 6. The platform is shared with the Lincoln MKX, and the Mazda CX-9 crossovers, the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and the Lincoln MKZ sedans. The Edge made its public debut at the 2006 North American International Auto Show. The delivery of the Edge was delayed due to supplier glitches as well as to check on the quality of the vehicle. Now, the crossover SUV is reaping good feedback from consumers.

The J.D. Powers survey measures design quality and production defects or malfunctions at the 90-day point of ownership and is considered a major automotive quality gauge. Some 97,000 owners and lessees responded to the 228-question surveys. Vehicles were evaluated between November 2006 and January of this year.

In a separate survey Ford’s Wixom assembly plant, shuttered last week, won the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing vehicles with the fewest defects. It is the first time since 1999 a North American plant garnered that award, J.D. Powers said.

J.D. Power and Associates’ marketing research consists primarily of consumer surveys. Its ratings are based on the survey responses of randomly selected or pre-determined auto purchasers.