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Old 09-01-2003, 09:06   #1 (permalink)
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U.S.A.:Ford techs get voice on repairs

By Amy Wilson
Automotive News / September 01, 2003

DETROIT - Ford Motor Co., criticized by dealers for reducing warranty repair times and compensation, will establish a panel of technicians to review repair procedures.

Dealers and technicians still are smarting over guidelines enacted in 1998, 1999 and 2000. One dealer says a Ford executive told him that the changes resulted in a 24 percent reduction in the time allotted for warranty repairs. Ford says that's too high.

Many technicians say some standards are impossible to meet. This means they might get paid, hypothetically, for one hour on a job that takes 80 minutes. Some technicians are so upset that they are trying to unionize dealership shops.

Ford now is scheduled to implement another round of changes in the repair procedures in November, a delay from its intended October timing. The delay will give the new 40-person committee of technicians the time to review those changes, says Francisco Codina, Ford's new vice president of customer service.

Ford officials say the proposed changes address less than 1 percent of all repair procedures. Dealers had worried that the proposed changes would more broadly reduce repair times and dealer warranty revenue, which already is decreasing because of quality gains.

Codina, who was promoted to his job on July 29, says he is taking a collaborative approach.

The technicians "have over time proven that they are very resourceful in the way they do repairs, and we want to learn from them," Codina says. "I want to make sure, and the dealers want to make sure, that they have a voice in the system - and they're going to get one."

The panel, which will cover Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealerships, will include at least two technicians from each of the automaker's 17 regions, plus two representing small, or select, dealers. Another four will be chosen on an at-large basis. The selections will be made in the next few weeks.

The panel first will review 500 to 1,500 proposed changes now on the table, Codina says. Some are clear-cut, he says, such as a modifying the repair for a vent in a Ford Taurus so that the instrument panel no longer must be removed. The technicians would go through hands-on exercises to validate other procedures.

Unclear authority

After the proposals are reviewed, technicians could then challenge existing standards for which they say times are tough to meet.

The authority of the panel remains unclear. While Ford officials say the company will consider the technicians' input, they haven't determined whether new procedures must pass the panel's time tests.

Still, dealers are enthused about Codina's cooperative attitude. Warranty work represents about 20 percent of the average dealership's parts and service revenue and 2.4 percent of total revenue, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. And with Ford reducing its warranty costs 20 percent this year, on top of a 20 percent reduction in 2002, dealers are sensitive to any warranty revenue issues.

"This was huge. We've been asking for this for many years," says Michael Kennedy of John Kennedy Ford in Feasterville, Pa., chairman of the Ford Division National Dealer Council.

"We were always concerned the company had this process for coming up with labor times, and it was done behind closed doors in a vacuum. But now they've opened the doors, and the process is going to be transparent, and they're going to let our technicians be a part of the process."
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Old 09-02-2003, 03:51   #2 (permalink)
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Re: U.S.A.:Ford techs get voice on repairs

Sadly it's a common problem here too.
Having seen some of the repair times that are allocated for warranty work it's not much wonder that corners have to be cut and some dealers do their best to get out of it.

For those who don't know how the system works here is a little canned lesson.

Someone identifies a warranty issue and it goes to a technical support group whose job it is to figure out how to fix it. This might be a combination of revised components, reworks or the (now) famous tape that has been popular in recent years.

Instructions are developed and these are sent out to dealers along with a time for completion. Most of the techs I've ever spoken to are of the opinion that this time estimate is arrived at by one of two methods:

1. Counting the number of Scotch Finger biscuits left in the tea room barrel and dividing it by the time a Scotch Finger takes to dissolve in coffee.

2. Measuring the time it takes 3 hungry Indonesian workers to complete the task and then dividing it by two.

Basically this means that it is actually impossible to complete the task in the allotted time so the dealer ends up wearing the difference in unproductive time as an expense.
This would be bad enough as it encourages a poor attitude to warranty work in the first place but the situation is further worsened by the fact that the solutions are frequently less than elegant as they represent the cheapest possible alternative. No doubt this wins somebody kudos with their management but it adds to the frustration at the coal face.

A case in point.

A number of FPV cars were built without the power adjustable pedals fitted. In this instance the fix was a whole pile of replacement parts that necessitated the removel of the brake booster, steering column and otrher components. The time allocated was about half of what was actually required to do the job correctly and it included such cheap ass options as saving the pedal cover for reuse.

Thankfully the service manager at Strapps believes in doing a good job and thus no corners were cut in the rework. As a customer I appreciate that but I can understand why some dealers would take an alternative course of action. Can hardly blame them on big jobs that are going to cost them a shitload of money.

It's a system that could do with some serious review. Manufacturing glitches will happen and it's about time everyone got a fair shake in the remediation process.

Cheers
Russ
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