Ford Motor Co.'s new vice president of quality says the company's poor grades in a recent quality study is a “wake-up call” for the automaker that needs immediate attention.

“This data confirms what we already know from our internal Global Quality Research System,” Louise Goeser writes in a recent company-wide internal letter obtained by Ward's. “We've experienced some serious setbacks in both quality and customer satisfaction. There's no single reason, failure or common cause for this deterioration. All of us at Ford Motor Company need to contribute to the solution.”

Ms. Goeser says she plans to address these quality issues with a “comprehensive action plan” to boost the company's ratings. This will include better attacking customer complaints and focusing on the most common ones across all vehicles in the company's lineup. She says plans already are underway to link suppliers more closely with Ford's quality and warranty efforts; and work has begun to improve the sales and service side, as well.

“Our leadership is refocused on quality, including weekly quality reviews and a reappraisal of the ways we drive customer satisfaction,” she writes.

Ms. Goeser's letter was in response to the company's performance in the Initial Quality Study by J.D. Power that was released a few weeks ago. She was particularly unhappy with Ford's tallies in the “Things-Gone-Wrong” category, pointing out that Ford's numbers increased while all of its competitors improved. Ms. Goeser, who joined Ford on March 1 from Whirlpool Corp., urges employees to share any ideas to improve quality with their bosses and says she plans to open new channels to better communicate customer-driven quality to everyone.

“We all need a strong emotional connection with our customers,” she says. “When we think of our decisions and actions with our customers as our touchstone, we will make the right call. And please nurture a sense of urgency to fix things fast, before they reach our customers. If we disappoint them with poor quality, how can we expect them to buy another Ford car or truck?”

Ms. Goeser also takes the time to list Ford's improvements, pointing out that the company had more “recommended buy” ratings than any other manufacturer in the April issue of Consumer Reports. She also singled out Jaguar for its “fantastic turnaround” in customer satisfaction. “In large part, we too need a return to the basics of quality, with a renewed connection to the customer,” she says.

Praise was given to Ford's third place finish (an 11% gain year-to-year, she says) in J.D. Power's long-term dependability study of '94 models. Toyota and Honda finished first and second, respectively.

“Quality leadership is fundamental to Jac Nasser's vision of becoming a world-class consumer company,” she says. “Quality can be a Ford competitive advantage, but lagging quality will only hurt. We know that if we disappoint customers with poor product quality, they won't buy Ford vehicles again.”