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At Ford quality is Job One and latest awards prove it

Quality at Ford Motor Co. has long been Job One, and this week the car company founded by the great Henry Ford has been recognized twice for its continuous commitment to doing things right the first time.

RDA Group has cited Ford Motor for "client excellence in quality improvement." And on Tuesday evening the American Society for Quality Automotive Division awarded the Quality Leader of the Year Award to Bennie Fowler (pictured), Ford Motor's group vice president of global quality and new model launch.

Ford Motor has achieved great success in quality and customer satisfaction improvement in the past half-decade, as these awards denote.

In assessing Global Quality Research System trends from 2006 to the end of 2010, Ford Motor measured the most significant improvement trend for total Things-Gone-Wrong reduction and Vehicle Quality Satisfaction in the study by RDA, a market research firm. Ford Motor finished near the top for quality.

"This is a tremendous achievement," said Dennis Pietrowski, RDA Group's managing director. "Virtually all manufacturers have shown substantial reduction of customer reported troubles over the years; most of the time with little or no improvement to customer satisfaction.

"As a market and survey research organization it is gratifying to see Ford embrace the survey results and customer feedback we provide and make truly outstanding improvements. The news and data has not always been good over the years, but Ford has focused and persisted and they have made tremendous improvements to their vehicles and the entire customer experience."

Ford Motor's quality achievements include:

• Consumer Reports: Ford Motor now ranks fifth overall among major OEMs, rising from 11th place in 2010, based on improvements in reliability and road-test evaluations.
• J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study ranks Lincoln as the top most dependable brand in the 2011 study of 3-year-old vehicles.
• J.D. Power APEAL ranks Ford Motor second among volume manufacturers.
• J.D. Power Retention study shows Ford Motor is tied with Honda for leadership among volume manufacturers.
• 2010 Polk Owner Loyalty: Ford Motor at 63.1%; Ford brand at 60.3%, higher than others.
• 2011 ALG Perceived Quality Study: Ford cars gained 16% improvement and trucks, 19.6% improvement since then the 2008 survey – higher than other OEMs.

The ASQ Quality Leader of the Year Award won by Fowler is presented every year to recognize the quality leadership contributions of an outstanding auto industry leader. Fowler received the award at an Automotive Hall of Fame dinner, at which he was the keynote speaker.

“It is truly an honor to be recognized among the top quality leaders of the automotive industry,” said Ha Dao, chairman of the ASQ Automotive Division. “Quality leadership must be the overriding goal. Fowler was selected for this award for his visionary leadership and transformational change in driving quality improvement. He is most deserving of this prestigious recognition.”

Fowler's accomplishments, according to a statement from Wisconsin-based ASQ, include the development of a vision of achieving world class quality in every region, a quality strategy centering around product, process, people, and perception, a standardized quality operating system to sustain business results, and driving a cultural change that embraces continuous improvement by sharing best practices to spread the quality improvement.

"It is an honor to be recognized by RDA for our efforts achieving top quality and customer satisfaction," Fowler said. "Quality is part of Ford's DNA and the Ford team is dedicated to continually finding new ways to please our customers."

Others from the Detroit Three who were cited Tuesday evening include ASQ Testimonial Award winners Dr. Jay Zhou (Ford Motor) and Kush Shah (General Motors) and ASQ Fellow Lou Ann Lathrop (Chrysler).

The Quality Leader recipient is usually an executive who has consistently demonstrated a customer-focused quality philosophy and a defect prevention-oriented vision.

Here is Fowler's background, as culled from a statement released Monday by ASQ:

In his current role, Fowler reports directly to Alan Mulally, the company’s president and CEO. He has responsibility for driving quality processes and discipline throughout the design and production of Ford Motor vehicles. He is also responsible for new model launches globally and ensuring alignment with product development, manufacturing, purchasing, and marketing.

Fowler directly influences the quality of Ford's newest model, current model and future model vehicles.

With more than 30 years experience in the auto industry, Fowler has held key positions in the heart of the company’s business operations and began serving in leadership roles very early in his career. Prior to his quality and launch leadership role, he was vice president, advanced & manufacturing engineering, chief operating officer of Jaguar Land Rover, executive director, North American Product Development and director, North American Manufacturing Operations.

He joined Ford Motor as a superintendent at St. Thomas Assembly Plant in 1990 from Chrysler Corp., where he held various manufacturing management assignments. From 1978 through 1986, he worked for General Motors.

He is the founder of Powerstroke Athletic Club, an after-school youth organization based in Southfield, Mich. Under Fowler's leadership, Powerstroke's mission is to develop positive characteristics and values in youths through hard work, discipline, education and relationships. He continues to be involved in the club’s day-to-day operations.

Fowler is also a member of the Board of Directors for Beaumont Hospitals. Beaumont Hospitals is a Michigan regional health care provider in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties. Fowler, who grew up in Augusta, Ga., has a bachelor’s degree in business management.

You can reach's Hawke Fracassa at [email protected].

Image source: Bennie Fowler portrait, from Ford Motor Co.

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