Ford Motor Co. yesterday announced it will offer lifetime guarantees on car repairs in an effort to win customer loyalty and end complaints about poor service.
Ford dealers who do the repair work will have to pay for the labor in the lifetime warranties. For that and other reasons, nearly 2,000 of Ford's 5,300 dealers are not participating.
All 34 Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers in the Washington metropolitan area are taking part. In Ford's Washington marketing district--which includes the District, Maryland, Virginia, and parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia--165 of the 201 dealers are participating.
Under terms of Ford's lifetime service guarantee, customers will pay only once for individual repairs as long as they own their cars. Subsequent repairs of the same item or condition will be done free of charge for either parts or labor.
The company also said it will expand to the rest of the nation the consumer appeals boards set up in the Washington area four years ago. The Ford Consumer Appeals Boards will handle customer complaints that have not been resolved by the company or its dealers.
The repair guarantee program begins April 1. It will cover all Ford cars--about 25 million of which are on U.S. roads--regardless of age or mileage.
The repair guarantee is "the most extensive, longest-lasting service repair guarantee ever offered by anybody anywhere in America," C. V. Barion, general manager of Ford's parts and services division, said here yesterday.
"Under this program, participating dealers installing a Ford or Motorcraft part will guarantee that once the customer pays for the repair, he or she never again will have to pay for the same part, or the labor to install it, for as long as they own the vehicle," Barion said. "In effect, our dealers are telling their customers that repair work will be done right the first time," Barion said.
A Ford official said many of the dealers not participating in the program are small franchises, mostly in rural areas.
Ford will provide any needed parts for the warranty repairs. The program will be costly, particularly for a company that lost $658 million last year. But Barion said the cost is necessary to show the public that Ford is serious about improving the quality of its products and service. "We will sell a great deal more cars," he predicted.
The guarantee covers cooling and electrical systems, engine, transmission and other power train components, steering and suspension, as well as factory installed options and dealer accessories.
It does not include routine maintenance or parts damaged by accident or abuse. Sheet metal, upholstery, paint, bright metal and trim also are excluded, company officials said.