How bad was Jaguar quality in the 1980’s and early 90’s? It was so bad that Ford almost bit off more than they could chew when they paid $2.5 billion to buy the brand. In his article, How Ford bought, fixed Jaguar, written in 2003, Bradford Wernle explains just how bad it had gotten.
“My concern was that, with the exception of a few people, most of the Jaguar people – their belief about Ford Motor Co. was pretty poor,” said Hayden. “Second, they didn’t really seem to understand what a mess they were in. They seemed to think just being Jaguar, somehow they would survive. Somehow I had to get their attention.” Hayden got their attention by making a comment that became a legend around Jaguar’s base in Coventry, England. Hayden said the only factory he had ever seen that was worse than Browns Lane was the Gorky car plant in the old Soviet Union. At Gorky, Hayden had seen workers actually applying paint over bird crap deposited on the roofs of cars by pigeons flying around inside the plant. The Gorky comment hurt workers badly, but it also woke them up.
As an American, I was wondering how things would get any better with Ford owning the brand. Ford to me was an economy car with little to offer in terms of quality. But I was obviously wrong. The people behind “Quality is Job One” created a miraculous turn around for Jaguar taking the brand from the bottom to the top of quality scores. Nicely done.