The effort to improve quality at Ford

The effort to improve quality at Ford has involved training thousands of white collar and blue collar employees in quality improvement methods, said Bennie Fowler, vice president for global quality.

Those who learn to effectively solve quality problems can earn the title of "black belt," of which Ford has about 10,000 worldwide, or "master black belt," of which there are about 1,000.

It has also involved improvements in internal communication so problems can be resolved quickly.

"If you put a warranty claim in at your dealership, I can see that claim within 24 to 48 hours," Fowler said. Computer technology also allows Ford engineers to look for quality problems earlier, he said.

According to Consumer Reports, all of Ford's newer car and crossover SUV models have at least average or better dependability.

"With Ford, they put a lot of focus on building cars that are reliable and they put a lot of focus on fuel economy," said David Champion, head of auto testing at Consumer Reports.

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