DEARBORN, Mich., Dec. 29, 2007 -- Ford Motor Company?s Global Market Research team is deeply engaged in the development of new products for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury.

?We?re working with product teams from conception to vehicle launch,? said Randall Janisch, Ford research manager ? Advanced Product Development. ?Global Market Research doesn?t make the product decisions ? we make the decisions better.?

Initial market research at Ford takes place 40 to 45 months before the start of production of a vehicle. To maintain anonymity, Ford uses agencies to gather subjects based on vehicle ownership, age, income and other demographics. These people meet with a moderator to discuss life aspirations, personal values, and other affinities.

Ford researchers watch from behind a two-way mirror in order to select individuals who best represent the ideal consumer for a particular vehicle. Researchers then visit the customers? homes to understand their likes and dislikes, noting favorite brands and the use of automotive aftermarket products along the way.

Ford then conducts concept clinics and Internet surveys. The clinics use photos, animations and show properties to gauge consumers? emotional response. The online surveys help identify the features consumers want in different types of vehicles.

?We?re working with the product teams to develop target customer hypotheses up front,? Janisch said. ?And we?re making continuous improvements along the way.?

Ford conducts theme, package and appearance clinics where advanced vehicle properties are presented alongside competitive vehicles in static ?blind? testing to evaluate interior roominess, visibility, color and material use and exterior appearance.

The company then gauges market acceptance for each vehicle in clinics and conducts final drives. Different consumers and locations are used at every stage of the game.

?We?re judicious about not testing the same people too much,? Janisch said. ?However, we?ll occasionally re-meet with the same consumers at later stages in the program to confirm certain product improvements.?

Ford continues to conduct research after vehicles reach market through several processes, including the Global Quality Reporting System (GQRS), which helps the company better understand customer satisfaction with overall quality. Influencers gauged include price, sales and service experience as well as things gone wrong.

In the latest third-quarter GQRS study, Ford continued to see a steady upward march in vehicle quality and customer satisfaction. Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, Mercury Milan, Ford Crown Victoria, Lincoln Mark LT ranked best in their respective segments.

Ten Ford models outperformed their competition, traditionally the best in class.