Thursday, January 13, 2005

Quality Is Job ... None?

A few years back, Ford Motor Company's advertising slogan was "Quality is Job One." I don't follow or know much about Ford vehicles, but after what I heard today, I have to wonder how some car companies have managed to stay in business this long.

The better part of my workday was spent in a Nissan Warranty Training Class, where I was joined by maybe 15 other warranty administrators from this part of the country. A young woman at my table — we'll call her Mary — struck up a conversation regarding how she had stumbled into this line of work. That intrigued me not nearly so much as the stories she told about her previous job.

Seems that for about five years previous to her current employment (where she's been for two years), Mary worked in a factory which produced and tested engine valve covers and gaskets for several different automakers. Among them were GM, Ford, Honda, Toyota, and, I believe, two or three others.

The fun part: When it came to quality control, each manufacturer had its own specifications for what it would accept. And differences were astounding.

Toyota easily required the highest quality from the products Mary's factory shipped, she said, with Honda pulling a close second. Both these autobuilders required that delivered parts (valve covers, gaskets, and whatever else) arrive in pristine condition. Specimens imperfect in almost any manner — even something as mundane as appearance ... say, a minor scuff or grease splotch — were immediately returned and replacements demanded.

General Motors, on the other hand, had no such qualms regarding the parts it purchased for use in its vehicles. Covers or gaskets which leaked or failed water/pressure testing were generally accepted anyway, so long as the leaks were less than such-and-such measurement. Minor cracks were fine, as well as most blemishes and casting imperfections. GM, she said, routinely accepted parts with one or two broken bolt holes (out of a possible six or eight on a part, for instance).

Then came Ford. The folks there, Mary said, would pretty much take whatever product came off the line, in whatever condition it might happen to exist, with no questions asked.

"It was pretty wild," Mary told me. "Makes you wonder about all the rest of the parts that go into their cars, huh?"

Indeed it does, Mary. Indeed it does.

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— Posted by Michael @ 11:40 PM


I am happy I bought a Honda. 13 years old (knock on wood) and still running great.


Easily one of the best decisions I ever made: Buying our '95 Accord in 1996.

Amazingly dependable car.

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