PARIS - Ford Motor Co. engineers used a new system of assessing customer wants and needs to ensure quality while developing the Focus.
The new system has five steps, which other Ford vehicle programs are likely to use, says Rose Mary Farenden, Focus project manager.
Farenden, a body engineer, says the Focus team used the system to define the package. 'We wanted to know what would make the customer say 'wow,' and then how do we deliver that 'wow' to the customer,' she said at the Paris auto show.
The first step was collecting and reviewing the quality history of other Ford Escort-sized, cars, including the performance record of suppliers.
The second step was collecting customer information. It included traditional marketing clinics and individual interviews with US and European owners of lower-medium vehicles.
The team videotaped the customer interviews, compiled a series of tapes and categorized the customer comments by subject matter and engineering discipline. The tapes were available to all 600 Ford employees on the Focus team, as well as suppliers.
'The idea was to collect information directly from the customer and bring it to engineers,' Farenden said.
Next, the team got into systems engineering by identifying the central areas of customer concern and understanding what functions were needed. The primary concerns were interior size, particularly adequate headroom and sufficient seat height to allow easy entering and exiting.
Farenden called the fourth step 'robustness assessments,' in which engineers made sure that all systems had the ideal 'energy translation.' As an example, she said that included making sure that no brake energy was going into squeals.
'That's how we made the Focus 5 percent lighter than the Escort and 100 percent stiffer,' she said.
The fifth and final step was developing tests to verify that all systems met all requirements.
Farenden said the biggest challenge now is cross-fertilization - that is, getting new vehicle programs to adopt the best practices developed by other programs.