A spate of recalls on Ford Motor Co.'s redesigned Escape sport-utility vehicle and Fusion sedan, among its most important offerings, is not slowing sales of those models, the company said yesterday.
"Our sales are doing well and the perception of our products are doing well," Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields, 51, told reporters Tuesday after a ceremony in Detroit. "But we understand that's a very precious thing and we're working very hard every day to deliver that quality."
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Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally made quality a cornerstone of his turnaround plan for the Dearborn, Michigan- based automaker. That effort has stumbled as Ford has plunged in quality rankings from researcher J.D. Power & Associates and Consumer Reports magazine. The 2013 Escape, Ford's top-selling SUV, has been recalled four times since it was introduced in May. The new Fusion has had two recalls since its October debut.
"On the Escape launch, we have had a few issues," Fields said. "But when you look at our Escape, look at our new C-Max, look at our Fusion, they are the fastest-turning products in our showroom. When you look at the transaction prices of the new models versus the old models, they are significantly up."
Ford is attempting to satisfy customers affected by recalls by giving them free loaner cars and promptly making repairs, Fields said.
"We realize that we have to keep at this, and we will," Fields said. "Our commitment is to bring out products of the very best quality and as we see issues, we're going to jump on them."
On Nov. 30, the automaker recalled 73,320 Escape models and about 19,000 Fusions equipped with its 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine. The company said Dec. 10 it found a solution to an overheating issue that could cause engine fires.
Ford also has been criticized for quality by Consumer Reports. The company's Ford brand fell seven spots to second-to- last place while its Lincoln luxury nameplate plunged twelve spots in the magazine's annual auto-reliability survey.
Ford's rankings suffered because of problems with its MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch audio, entertainment and navigation systems and defects with models such as the Explorer sport-utility vehicle and Fiesta and Focus cars, Consumer Reports said in October.
The company has also slid in an annual new-car quality survey by J.D. Power. The Ford brand fell to 27th in 2012 from 23rd last year and fifth in 2010.
Fields said that Ford's quality is "significantly improved" from five years ago. He blamed declining quality scores in the last two years on glitches with dashboard touchscreen controls and fuel-saving new transmissions.
"Over the last couple years, we've had some isolated areas, particularly around MyFord Touch and some of our transmissions," Fields said. "We've been addressing that and we've seen improvements."
Yesterday's event was related to how the Ford Fund, the company's community-relations arm, is giving $10 million to the City of Detroit to create a community center in the Mexicantown neighborhood and to provide for a new youth recreation and summer camp.
Ford gained 2.5 percent to $11.67 yesterday in New York. The shares have risen 8.5 percent this year.