Chrysler: Quality Leader By 2012?
“There is no other area in the field of human communications that is as rife with disinformation as the story on Chrysler quality,” then Chrysler President Bob Lutz once famously said. Some things never change. According to today’s Detroit News, Chrysler is claiming that they will be a (though not “the”) quality leader by the end of 2012. They (and many other auto makers) have made similar claims before. Sometimes they achieve these goals. More often they don’t. Chrysler’s chances?
Chrysler claims it’s increasing its odds of success by making what appear to be substantial changes to its organization and culture. A new senior VP of quality has been hired away from Nissan (begging the question, since when are they a quality leader?). The quality organization has been enlarged from 200 to 1,700 people. The new quality staff has been organized into cross-functional teams focused on the quick execution of needed changes. Perhaps the biggest change of all: Chrysler now claims that they will tackle problems rather than pretending they don’t exist or ignoring them and hoping they’ll go away. Which they now largely have.
Still unknown: whether these people really have the pull to get their requested changes executed. Large organizations are chock full of special teams charged with getting something done, but without the pull to actually get it done. Is this one of those?
Chrysler claims that engineering changes have already had a substantial impact on existing products. Supposedly, while 75 percent of defects were design-related last year, with the remaining 25 percent occurring during assembly, the ratio is now 50-50. If we assume that the number of assembly defects has not changed, this implies that the total number of defects has already been cut in half. Too good to be true? Are these just rough, shoot-from-the-hip numbers? Perhaps, but if the head of quality is dishing out rough numbers… that’s not the most promising sign.
Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta. If Chrysler’s quality does improve, it will show up first in True Delta’s quarterly-updated Reliability Survey.
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