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Ford sees new long-term quality gains

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Ford sees new quality gains

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Study of long-term durability shows marked improvement

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Fresh from its victory over Toyota Motor Corp. in this year's initial quality survey by J.D. Power and Associates, Ford Motor Co. now says it has cut in half its long-term quality gap with the Japanese automaker.

Ford and General Motors Corp. are in a dead heat for third place behind Toyota and Honda Motor Co. when it comes to the quality of its older cars and trucks, Ford Americas President Mark Fields told employees in his weekly Webcast on Wednesday.

Fields cited a study of 2004 models driven by customers over a three-year period that was prepared for Ford by the RDA Group, a market research firm based in Bloomfield Hills. "We're seeing consistent improvements and gaining traction," Fields said, adding that he expects to see more dramatic improvements next year when the 2005 model year vehicles are put under the microscope.

"We are at industry average according to this survey, essentially tied with GM and trailing Honda and Toyota."

The survey looked at customer satisfaction and the number of problems encountered by owners of 2004 model year vehicles. It found that Ford's models experienced 5 percent fewer issues than in last year's survey of 2003 model year vehicles, marking the fourth straight year of improvement for the Dearborn-based automaker.

Analyst Erich Merkle of IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids noted that several surveys have shown Ford's vehicle quality is improving. "They actually are making some real strides, but the perception is taking a long time to catch up."

Standouts in the long-term study included the Mercury Sable sedan, which led its segment, and the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicles, which showed big improvements in quality and customer satisfaction. The Ford Ranger pickup also did well in the quality assessment.

The Ford, Mercury and Lincoln brands also topped their respective classes in overall paint appearance, Gattari noted.

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