According to a report in The Detroit News, Ford is taking special measures to ensure a quality glitch-free launch for the redesigned F-150 pickup line.
The newspaper said that the F-series full-size pickup is the best-selling vehicle in the United States and the new version is crucial to Ford’s hopes of becoming solidly profitable again after heavy losses in 2001 and 2002.
The company has been embarrassed by several recent launches where almost-new vehicles have had to be recalled to have minor defects corrected, such as cracking tailgate glass or faulty windscreen wipers.
The Detroit News said Ford spent $US1.8 billion developing and engineering the new F-150 and production versions are now rolling off the assembly line in Norfolk, Virginia. A Kansas City, Missouri plant will begin output of the new F-150 later this month while the new truck plant at Ford’s famous Rouge Centre in Dearborn starts production next year, the paper added.
With the new F-150 scheduled to begin reaching United States showrooms later this northern hemisphere summer, Ford is taking unprecedented steps to avoid those recalls and quality problems that have tainted some of those new model launches in the recent past, the Detroit News said.
“It’s all about execution,” the newspaper cited Ford executive vice president Jim Padilla as writing in a recent internal memo to employees. “And it’s about launching the new F-150 with high quality,” he reportedly added.
According to the Detroit News the memo also said that Ford put the new F-150 pickup through the equivalent of more than five million miles of cumulative testing and built a larger-than-normal batch of prototype versions to allow for the additional testing.
The paper also said that, according to the memo, Ford engineers and other workers devised 400 new manufacturing steps to reduce the possibility of problems or glitches during assembly, new portable testing machines in the Norfolk and Kansas City plants are being used to diagnose vehicle problems — such as excessive noise or vibration – within seconds – and top company executives, including Padilla, are driving a test-fleet of F-150 models as a final measure to evaluate quality before the trucks go on sale.
“The F-150 is going to be a key, key, key launch for [Ford],” Jim Sourges, vice president of the automotive consulting group at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, told the Detroit News.
“They are going to have to execute pretty well. It won’t be easy. For them, that’s bread and butter,” Sourges reportedly added.
The Detroit News also said noted that Ford is keeping launch teams in place at the Norfolk and Kansas City assembly plants until the end of the year, rather than pulling them out shortly after production starts.
“The launch of the F-150 is absolutely critical, and we plan to execute it flawlessly,” Ford president Nick Scheele said recently, according to the Detroit News.