Chrysler pledges to be quality leader by 2012

A quick glance at recent Consumer Reports or JD Power data shows that the Pentastar has a big problem on its hands, but the new Chrysler says that will change in a big way by the end of 2012. Chrysler is planning to be a quality leader in only three years by dramatically increasing staffing levels in its quality team while working to dramatically clean up its engineering processes. Just one year ago, there were only 200 staff members on the quality team. Chrysler is now hiring 200 additional workers and shifting head count to beef up its quality team to over 1,700.

Quality boss Doug Betts, who was hired from Nissan during the Cerberus acquistion, tried to address quality before the automaker descended into bankruptcy, but Chrysler’s woeful money situation led to the postponement of the Pentastar’s long overdue quality renaissance.

For starters, Chrysler has cut per-vehicle spending by $240 million, and warranty spending is down 30 percent to an all-time low. In 2008, 75 percent of all quality problems were design issues, and that number has reportedly dropped to 50 percent this year though better engineering. The factory floor is also receiving attention, as Chrysler is adopting Fiat’s “world class” manufacturing system.

Chrysler has also made several departmental shifts to give workers more autonomy to make changes faster. In the past, problems were shifted from one department to another, resulting in an average delay of 71 days to fix a problem. Now cross-departmental teams are organized by 14 vehicle groups, like brakes or transmissions instead of by model alone. Many of the quality fixes will occur as Chrysler unveils new or heavily updated products between now and 2013. The Detroit News reports that 75 percent of all models will receive heavy duty attention within the next 14 months, and all vehicles will be updated by 2013.

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