DEARBORN - For Lincoln, quality is more than just the sum of its working parts. Quality is a foundational element that can be seen throughout the entire ownership process – from parts on the car to dealership experiences.
“There is more to Lincoln than basic quality – making sure things don’t go wrong or need repairs,” said Scott Tobin, director, Product Development, Lincoln. “We’re about crafted quality. Everything has a feel, texture, smell and ambiance. We want Lincoln to feel right.”
Look inside the cabin of the all-new Lincoln MKZ. The character is warm and inviting. It’s quiet. The materials add even more to the feel of the car, giving it a more premium feel.
“We need to engage every skill team to help deliver a robust quality experience,” said Ann Green, manager, Quality, Lincoln. “We need to understand the voice of the customer, the target market and our own role in delivering quality. We can’t settle for anything less than premium brand perfection – a zero defect mindset.”
And this commitment is starting to come to fruition.
In the J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study, Lincoln ranked third out of 32 brands. The study looks at three-year-old models and at problems per 100 vehicles. Lincoln improved four spots year over year.
“Long-term dependability is what keeps customers coming back,” said Tobin. “To come in third place is a respectable performance, but we want to be No. 1, and there is no reason that we can’t be. It’s part of our plan.”
This study is important to Lincoln because it uses customers as the source.
“To build a brand you don’t do it in one survey. You don’t build it in one year, said Tobin. “It’s decades of consistent performance that will really move the needle on reputation. We can do that.”
Listening to customers will be key for Lincoln moving forward.
One thing customers are expecting more and more of is technology.
“You don’t want to include technology in a car for technology’s sake, or even a single feature,” said Tobin. “There needs to be a set of technologies that are intuitive that help make the customer’s life easier.”
A great example of this is the Lincoln Drive Control.
Lincoln Drive Control orchestrates the performance of the Continuously Controlled Damping adjustable suspension, electric powerassisted steering, engine, transmission, Active Noise Control, traction control and stability control systems.
The result is an excellent combination of refined ride and engaging driving dynamics.
Quality also is important in how we provide service to our customers.
Lincoln has partnered with worldrenowned hotel concierge Les Clefs d’Or to create a better service experience in dealerships through the Lincoln Academy. The Lincoln Academy is a long-term commitment to culture change in dealerships.
It’s important for employees to understand our current position in the marketplace. In 2012, Lincoln finished in last place out of all the premium brand OEMs.
“It was an engaging wake-up call for all of us,” said Green. “In order to make a change, we need out of the box thinking and a shift in mindset from the way we used to behave. We need to go to extraordinary measures to maintain a zero defect mindset in order to remain competitive as well as deliver on our promise to become best in class.”
And in order to deliver on Lincoln quality, employees need to continue to make it a priority.
It is the prime reason Lincoln decided to place the all-new MKZ through a stringent quality/luxury verification process in Hermosillo, Mexico, as well as Flat Rock, Mich. While the vehicle experienced delays in deliveries to dealers and customers, the move was further proof of Lincoln’s commitment to producing the highest quality vehicles. The brand now is delivering on the plan of having normal dealer stock levels this month.
“We’re starting to gain momentum on our journey,” said Tobin. “We need employees to take that excitement and turn it into action every minute of every day so we can continue to deliver quality in everything we do.”