WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA-Ford Motor Co. garnered five top model segment awards-more than any other automobile corporation this year, according to J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Initial Quality Study (IQS). In the study, Ford Motor Co. earned model segment awards for the Ford Mustang, Lincoln Mark LT, Lincoln MKZ, Mazda MX-5 Miata and Mercury Milan.

“The 2007 IQS results contain some encouraging and positive news for Ford Motor Co.,” says Neal Oddes, director of product research and analysis at J.D. Power and Associates. “Fourteen Ford Motor Co. models place in the top three of their respective segments-an achievement unmatched by any other corporation this year-which is a testament to the improvement in quality for Ford Motor Co. vehicle models and plants. In addition, their Lincoln nameplate, which receives two segment awards, improves considerably to rank third in 2007 from 12th in 2006.”

The Initial Quality Study serves as the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality measured at 90 days of ownership and captures problems experienced by owners in two categories-quality of design and quality of production (defects and malfunctions). During the past 20 years, the automotive industry has improved in quality at the rate of 6% per year on average. In addition, the study has found that the automotive industry has reduced problem counts by 50% every 7 to 8 years.

The study finds that vehicle redesigns and product launches create quality challenges for manufacturers as they continue to develop and introduce new and advanced automotive technologies. On average, a vehicle redesign increases problem counts by 10 problems per 100 (PP100) vehicles. “Ideally, manufacturers should aim to achieve high initial quality when launching a new model, because this builds a strong foundation for future years and can become a differentiating factor relative to the competition,” adds Oddes. “One year after launch, initial quality begins to improve by an average of 7 PP100. If a model launches with lower initial quality, it is more difficult for the manufacturer to keep pace with the competition over time.”