Chrysler: Quality Leader By 2012?

Michael Karesh
by Michael Karesh

“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.

Michael Karesh
Michael Karesh

Michael Karesh lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan, with his wife and three children. In 2003 he received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. While in Chicago he worked at the National Opinion Research Center, a leader in the field of survey research. For his doctoral thesis, he spent a year-and-a-half inside an automaker studying how and how well it understood consumers when developing new products. While pursuing the degree he taught consumer behavior and product development at Oakland University. Since 1999, he has contributed auto reviews to Epinions, where he is currently one of two people in charge of the autos section. Since earning the degree he has continued to care for his children (school, gymnastics, tae-kwan-do...) and write reviews for Epinions and, more recently, The Truth About Cars while developing TrueDelta, a vehicle reliability and price comparison site.

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  • Daniel J I love my mazda 6. It's getting harder and harder to drive it around where I live as municipalities fail to repair roads. SUVs are just easier to drive with all of the potholes.
  • 1995 SC On the plus side, I found a sedan I want to buy
  • Teddyc73 As I asked earlier under another article, when did "segment" or "class" become "space"? Does using that term make one feel more sophisticated? If GM's products in other segments...I mean "space" is more profitable then sedans then why shouldn't they discontinue it.
  • Robert Absolutely!!! I hate SUV's , I like the better gas milage and better ride and better handling!! Can't take a SUV 55mph into a highway exit ramp! I can in my Malibu and there's more than enough room for 5 and trunk is plenty big enough for me!
  • Teddyc73 Since when did automakers or car companies become "OEM". Probably about the same time "segment" or "class" became "space". I wish there were more sedans. I would like an American sedan. However, as others have stated, if they don't sell in large enough quantities to be profitable the automakers...I mean, "OEMs" aren't going to build them. It's simple business.