Ford Motor Co. is moving across a broad front to solve quality problems that have plagued the No. 2 automaker for years, leading to costly recalls, stalled product launches and poor results in customer surveys, a top official tells Ward's.

James J. Padilla, who advanced to group vice president-Ford North America in the recent management shakeup that ousted President and Chief Executive Jacques Nasser, says he's covering all the company's constituencies — employees, suppliers, dealers, customers and the United Auto Workers union — in his focus on quality.

“It's a big opportunity for us. We also have a lot of work to do on our products” and firming up relationships both inside and outside the company, Mr. Padilla says.

To that end, he is conducting a series of “town hall” events in plants and engineering groups to get the message across, and is beefing up Ford's design, testing, and component and system validation processes to catch glitches before they surface as embarrassing and costly problems.

Mr. Padilla gained credit for the sharp turnaround at Jaguar Cars Ltd., where he installed the Ford Production System during the mid-1990s and presided over the launches of several new Jaguar models. Since then Jaguar, long a beautiful but unreliable car, has moved up to world-class status.

Ford's suppliers, sometimes the cause of recalls and snafu-filled vehicle launches, will be tested by a new quality initiative, unveiled in October, that takes effect Feb. 1, 2002.