By on November 19, 2009

Sebring Quality (courtesy:

“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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44 Comments on “Chrysler: Quality Leader By 2012?...”

  • avatar

    So I guess this means Dart Container will no longer be stamping out interior trim for Chrysler.

  • avatar

    I just spit coffee all over my monitor.  Chrysler a quality leader by 2012? They won’t even be in business in 2012.

  • avatar

    Exactly.  If they produce no cars, they’ll produce no defects.  Perfection!

  • avatar

    Depends on how you define “quality.”  If your definition of quality is visits to someone for repair or EPUS then it’s highly unlikely.  But then using this definition of quality would also knock the likes of Rolls Royce, Bentley, Pagani into the “no quality” zone since their vehicles require large amounts of upkeep.
    If your definition of quality is interior materials and components nstruction (you know, the subjective “soft” side of the JD Powers IQS) then the story changes all-together.  If the Ferrari California has the same DVD/Nav unit as a Chrysler Minivan (Harman/QNX) , does that mean the Chrysler Minivan has a really high quality nav-system where even Ferrari would pick the same unit for their $100K+ car?

  • avatar

    Funny, I was just doing some analysis of the latest CR reliability data last night.
    Only 8% of Fiatsco’s US product is above the numerical average for the industry (GM 20%, Ford 67%, Hyundia 80%, Toy 93%, Honda 100%).

    Geuss I feel skeptical though I hope they improve…a lot.
    BTW, Lutz would be a great source for clearing up disimformation.  Chuckle.

  • avatar

    So, when I look up “craptastic” in the dictionary, is that the illustration I’ll see?

  • avatar

    That photo is a testament to why waxing poetic about how (insert previously derided brand) has finally turned the corner and, OMG, look at that interior.  It’s amazing.  Better than Lexus or Audi!  OMG!OMG!!!1!!1!
    One of the things I really like about is that their photography is probably the most true-to-life of any site.  No photoshop puffery, press-release shots, glamour lighting, etc.  They’re not good photos in an artistic sense, but they’re “real”.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    Chrysler’s chances?! 
    About the same as a snowball in hell. 
    Detroit needs a new record and new record player and new needle.
    I’m sick to death of “we’ll be better next year, just wait.  we’ll be better next year, just wait.  we’ll be better next year just wait” ad infinitum, ad nauseum. 
    I stopped believing anything that came out of Detroit about two decades after I stopped believing anything coming out of Washington. 
    I should have quit both earlier, not later.  Losers! 

  • avatar

    From the article: “A new senior VP of quality has been hired away from Nissan (begging the question, since when are they a quality leader?). ”

    Maybe he wasn’t getting the support he needed at Nissan.  Not that I think he’ll get it at Chrysler…

    Count me among the “achieving perfection by going out of business” votes.

  • avatar

    “There is no other area in the field of human communications that is as rife with disinformation as the story on Chrysler quality.”
    A ridiculous statement. He might have said ” in the field of AUTOMOTIVE human communications”.
    Think of all the superstitious beliefs, economonic ignorance and many other areas of human comunnication where disinforamtion is way worse and of greater importance comapred to what car consuemrs think about the failed Chrysler brand.

  • avatar

    Chrysler quality is a long story.  Pre-Iacocca, and going back to the 50s, Chrysler had the most horribe build quality anywhere.  However, once you got past the crappy paint jobs, wavy metal and mismatched interior parts, the innards of the car were the most durable anywhere.  Post Iacocca, the assembly quality issues had been largely resolved.  However, the tradeoff was that the legendary durability was a thing of the past, replaced with brittle, cheap components that would fail with great regularity.  No surprise, because the orgainization that Iacocca built largely resembled Ford during his time there.  And look at Ford in the 69-78 era.  Those cars seemed well built at the time, but were nowhere near as durable as contemporary Mopars.  When is the last time you saw a 71 LTD?

    Now, maybe someone at Fiat has gotten the memo.  If Chrysler had paid attention to basic durability during the 90s, GM may have been all alone at the trough in the last year.  Everyone is correct that Nissan has not been a beacon of deep-down quality over the last several years, nor has Fiat as I understand it.  But maybe, just maybe, Sergio understands that Chrysler will NEVER survive until it repairs its well-deserved reliability (or the lack thereof) reputation.  I hope that someone there gets it, and that they are serious.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting, as I’ve seen a fair number of early 1970s Ford products, but then, I live very close to the Carlisle car shows and big Hershey AACA meet. The full-size and non-muscle mid-size Mopars from that time don’t seem any more numerous than their Ford counterparts – even adjusting for their smaller production runs.

      Chrysler from the late 1950s to 1980 is an interesting case, as the reliability of its mechanical components varied widely over time. When it was good, it was great, but when it was bad…

      In the late 1950s and early 1960s, several Chrysler executives were caught accepting subpar components in exchange for kickbacks from suppliers. That seriously hurt reliability.

      Reliability improved after Lynn Townsend took over and the payola stopped in 1961, but things must have gone downhill at some point, as I remember people being leery of Chryslers – except for the slant-six equipped models – in the early 1970s.

      Our neighbors’ 1971 Dodge Coronet and 1972 Dodge Polara weren’t especially reliable, as I recall. Of course, they never even washed them, so those cars weren’t babied. Their brand-new 1977 Chrysler LeBaron was trouble from day one – FAR worse than my parents’ 1976 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale.  

      By the early 1970s, I don’t believe that Chryslers were any better than Fords in the reliability department, and once we hit the years with really strict emissions controls (post 1972), they both hit the floor. GM built better cars than either Ford or Chrysler for most of the 1970s, with the exception of the Vega and some of the post-1970 Cadillacs (which seem very flimsy when compared to contemporary Lincolns).

      As for the “new” Chrysler – I’ll believe that Chrysler has the best quality by 2012 – if it lives that long  – when I see indepedent survey results confirming that fact. Fiat as a long, hard road ahead of it.

    • 0 avatar

      Geeber, I cannot dispute that Chrysler quality varied wildly over time.  And I also agree that the farther we went into the 70s, the worse Chrysler’s quality problems.   But I will still argue that at least until 1975 or 76 (say the lean burn era) Chrysler’s deep down durability was miles ahead of Ford.
      While Chrysler certainly suffered from carburation, electrical and brake issues more than the competition, its engines, transmissions, axles, suspensions were routinely far superior in terms of durability than anything made by GM or Ford in that era.

      Many is the older Ford (or Chevy) I saw in the 70s being followed by the big blue cloud.  Very seldom did I see the blue cloud coming from a mopar tailpipe.  I owned a 71 Scamp slant 6/Torquflite into the mid 80s.  When I sold the car, it had 145K miles on it in an era when this was not all that common.  The engine used maybe a quart of oil every 1000 miles and ran as smooth as butter.  I had the transmission rebuilt at about 125K after rocking the car out of a snowbank while delivering pizzas in college.  Busted the reverse band.  Until that moment of abuse, it had shifted just fine.

      Of all the Chrysler owners I knew in those days, I never recall an engine failure.   Transmission failures were at high miles and were rare.  Although anectodal, it always seemed that the older they got, the more common Mopars became as they outlasted the others and continued chugging along through the abuse heaped upon old cars by their not-very-wealthy owners.
      So, if the metric is reliability, I have to agree with you that GM was the place to be in the 70s.  But if the metric was durability, I gotta go with the Mopars.  So long as you could deal with the carburation, electrical and body issues, you would be rewarded by a stouthearted car that would run and drive for a long, long time.

  • avatar

    Smells like wishful thinking.  They hired a new VP of quality?  Bah.  He won’t even get the quality manuals distributed by 2012.
    Quality in production is hard to inculcate.  It took a long time for TQM to develop at Toyota and even if you’re copying them note for note you still have to adapt to local conditions. 
    The root of  TQM thinking is the Western Electric SQC manual, whose first edition was sometime around the beginning of WWII.  If companies did *nothing* else than put up the standard Western Electric control chart at every work space, and used the information from them sensibly, their quality would skyrocket.   There’s a playbook and it has existed for decades.
    Chrysler won’t do that.

  • avatar

    Chrysler gets rightfully harrassed about the quality of their interior materials and upholstery padding but I still insist their workmanship is better than GM’s, at least in the 2003 to 2006 range. Ford gets a lot of credit for their improvements too but I have to tell you that the 2009 Ford Focus that I rented last month had a plastic dash etc. that made some of Chrysler’s interiors look pretty good.

    • 0 avatar

      Chrysler gets rightfully harrassed about the quality of their interior materials and upholstery padding but I still insist their workmanship is better than GM’s, at least in the 2003 to 2006 range.

      I agree, I compared the 300C to my CTS and while neither of them were going to knock Lexus or Audi off, the 300 was solid. And eegonomically it was no contest either. The CTS could’ve been a Chevy for what it was worth.

      In the end I bought the Caddy based on size and exterior looks.

    • 0 avatar

      Have you sat in a Caliber, Patriot, Sebring, Avenger, Nitro? Ever?

  • avatar

    Ha, they’ve got a ways to go.  I just rented an 09 Grand Caravan while on vacation with the family, and it was a piece of garbage.  It had 4000 miles on it and the muffler had a rattle or hole or something in it that made it sound like I had a harley strapped to the back of the van.  And the interior is craptastic as usual.  I’ll take my 03 Ody with 105,000 trouble free miles over a brand new Caravan any day.

    • 0 avatar

      The data at CR and I think TD also tends to back up your experience, those vans have had a nasty launch from a company thats reliability trend line is sloping down currently.

  • avatar

    I can’t believe how many “CHRYSLER” bashers there are out there.
    Soooooooo negative!!
    Why not give “SERGIO” and the  “AMERICANS” that work for “CHRYSLER” a fighting chance instead of just “SHIT CANNING” everything that is ever written about them or they try to achieve.
    It’s not so long ago (just prior to those Daimler Morons owning it) that Chrysler was the darling of the World Auto industry and the fastest growing Auto Company!

    I have worked for Japanese car companies and let me tell you not everything they do goes right! There is plenty of things that go wrong that they hide and is never highlighted in these columns and kept quite. Engines blowing up, gearboxs failing, terrible paint work, rust, seat backs that snap off etc etc.

    Can you imagine the Japanese public running down TOYOTA, NISSAN, HONDA etc – no it would never happen!


    America would never have been what it is today if everyone just kept being SO NEGATIVE!


  • avatar

    Ha, they’ve got a ways to go.  I just rented an 09 Grand Caravan while on vacation with the family, and it was a piece of garbage

    That is just it….you can’t judge a whole brand on one rental experience. I had a shitty Accord rental but I wont paint Honda as a shitty brand. That said. everyone said Ford’s quality was dismal just 3 years ago and they are the automaker of the year now.

    • 0 avatar

      Generally the naysayers have never owned the cars they are bashing. I own a Saturn ION. The worst car ever made according to the reviewers. So far 45K miles and AOK

  • avatar

    LOLOL! i laughed so hard when i read the title, the milk i was drinking came out of my nose.

  • avatar

    I wish Chrysler well, after-all, I own part of it…  but I have to admit that:
    “The quality organization has been enlarged from 200 to 1,700 people”,
    first made me wonder where they came from, and then I recalled an old story:  “During a desperate battle, an officer runs over to a soldier … officer asks (breathlessly) “What’s your branch?” … “Artillery sir!” replies the soldier … “Good!,” says the officer, handing the soldier a rifle, “you’re in the infantry now!”

  • avatar

    Let me answer it for you – NO.  They will not be a quality leader.  Not even close.  The staff at Chrysler has been running the “how cheap can you make it” and “close enough” mentality for generations.  You cannot just hire a few folks that took some Six Sigma classes and hope to solve the problem.

    Quality is something that is designed in and honed.  Chrysler, why do you think most Toyotas and Hondas can make a quarter million miles with little repair?  Are they all “Monday cars?”  I don’t think so.   If Chrysler really were to dedicate themselves to this, then maybe they would have quality improvements in a decade or so.

    Based on their current plan for the next 3-4 years (no new vehicles), I think they will be closed in 2012 so this is all a moot point.

    As they stand now, I just shake my head in disbelied when I see any new Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep interior. Who in heck actually thought that they would sell cars with that horribly poor level of assembly and plastics quality? These same folks are still working at Chrysler…

  • avatar

    A few years ago, Hyundai quality was the laughing stock of the industry. However, they worked at it and now are nipping at the heels of the major Japanese manufacturers. If Chrysler tries hard enough, they can do the same. That is, if they are still around.

  • avatar

    Quality or reliability? the two are different.
    Quality of a VW is excellent, reliability stinks.
    Quality of a Toyota Yaris is mediocre, reliability is top notch

  • avatar

    “how cheap can you make it” was really a mantra brought in the the German overlords.

  • avatar

    So if they plan to be a quality leader in 3 years what the hell were they for the last 20 or so?

  • avatar

    I honestly wish them well but we have all seen this movie before. With the combonation of Fiat and Chryslers history  I can only think….. Fia-sco.

  • avatar

    I believe the guy they hired from Nissan also spent some time at Toyota so maybe he does get it – we’ll see.

    As far as the interiors – the interior of the new Ram looks pretty nice to me – if they can remake the rest of the interiors to a similar level, maybe everyone will stop carping about cheap interiors. Also note that the Caliber/Compass/Patriot all have new interiors that look a lot better than before, at least stylistcally. I don’t expect vehicles at this price point to be chock full of premium materials but it appears they put some soft-touch/padded materials on the key touch points like the door trim panel and center console lid which should help with the “penalty box” feel…

  • avatar

    The quality of Chrysler cars went down during those “wonderful” years of Daimler ownership as well as their own Mercedes Benz vehicles .

    Daimler pulled Chrysler down and drained it of cash, expertise, Style, etc  and almost killed it completly during the 9 years of  no idea german management!

    The fabulous “Dream team” that had been put together at Chrysler during the early ninties all left Chrysler during the Daimler fiasco years.  Bob Eaton hang your head in shame.

    I really believe that Sergio will do for Chrysler what Carlos did for Nissan back in 1999 – BRING IT BACK TO LIFE AS A REAL CONTENDER IN THE MARKET PLACE .

    Now just a history note :  Daimler almost bought Nissan back in 1999 before Renault came in and if they had Nissan would be in the same condition today as Chrysler is (half dead). It was the Chrysler people at the time that were opposed to buying Nissan (Nissan should be grateful to them) 

  • avatar

    Our ’09 Grand Caravan has zero problems so far, 15,000  miles and 10 months.  No issues.  First car we’ve ever had that made it this long without a return trip to the dealership.  Longer than the Toyota Matrix.  But the interior is so cheap, too much plastic, but no squeeks or rattles.  Wish I could say that about the Toyota, it has more squeeks and rattles than my 65 Corvair convertable !

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    I think some of you cats have wait for Act Two in this play-lots of jumping on the hoods of Chrysler products here, but they are focusing on their biggest problem-quality.
    That’s a big step-not doing that (recognizing fundamental problems) got them in the same government handout line as GM.
    What’s happening here is worse than Monday morning quarterbacking-it’s more like Friday night rock throwing at the Head Coach before Sunday’s game.
    Look at it this way-if Chrysler goes down, then GM becomes the only punchline and some of you guys will lose half your material.

  • avatar

    There´s “quality” and there´s “perceived quality”.
    Perceived quality cars looks solid and indestructable but often they´re  not.
    Generally speaking;
    The germans are best of perceived quality.
    The japanese are best at quality.
    Both sells cars.
    A car can have both, but usually not.
    I don´t have any experience about Chrysler,  but the new Fiats are pretty good at perceived quality.
    So, if Fiat can inject this into Chrysler cars, they might stand a chance.

  • avatar

    Chrysler’s historic reliability and durability depended on the model – some of the muscle cars built in the mid to late 1960s were terrible, whereas Imperials felt like they were hewn from granite.
    It took a big hit in the early 1970s and the lowest point was  the mid & late 1970s. However the basic simplicity of the Dart/Valiant meant they just kept on running, the Volare was actually a nicer car to drive but the early ones were just so badly built.

  • avatar

    Toyota has a long way to go before coming the butt of jokes that (especially) GM and Chrysler have been for decades.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    <!– @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>
    Fiat finished dead last in the British J.D. Power survey, below even Chrysler. Clearly a case of the blind leading the lame.

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