Be Very Afraid: Chinese Copy Foreign Quality

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
be very afraid chinese copy foreign quality

As if the Japanese don’t have enough problems in China, now the Chinese are beating them at their own game: Quality.

“Many Chinese automakers are focusing on improving their quality control by introducing techniques developed in Japan and elsewhere overseas.” This assessment doesn’t come from a propaganda arm of the Chinese car industry. It comes from the voice of Japanese business, The Nikkei [sub].

The Japanese have a wary eye on increasingly scrappy Geely, the company that bought Volvo unit for $1.8b. Geely “has made a huge effort to learn from Japanese carmakers,” says the Nikkei.

Geely even does Japan one better. While Japanese companies use the 5S quality management system, Geely has 6S. And they keep Japanese terms such as “seiri” (organization) or “seisou” (cleanliness). The whiteboards, symbol for Japanese fastidious attention to detail, are everywhere.

Geely hired Japanese engineers to train their workforce. Their molds are made by Fuji Technica. “The dimensional accuracy demanded by Geely is often at the micron level, and the company’s quality standards are no lower than those at a Japanese carmaker,” said a Fujii executive.

Changan also is on a major drive to up the quality of their products. They recruited manufacturing experts from Toyota and BMW of Germany, luring them away with well-paid jobs.

We’ve gone through these phases with Japanese cars, and later with Korean cars. And when the Chinese do something, they usually don’t mess around.

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  • Lilpoindexter Lilpoindexter on May 07, 2010

    I've noticed that many chinese made items recently have a better look and feel to them. It was only a matter of time before the chinese started thinking about quality. It won't be long before we are paying a premium for quality chinese made items. Who knows, maybe africa will be the new source for cheap labor?

    • See 1 previous
    • Psmisc Psmisc on May 07, 2010

      I think China is eyeing Vietnam. There are already Chinese companies moving factories to Vietnam.

  • Philadlj Philadlj on May 07, 2010

    Too bad GeelyVolvo's new S60's Crash Avoidance system only works when it feels like it...

    • Analyst Analyst on May 07, 2010

      That is the result of years of control by Ford. The Geely deal hasn't been finalized yet.

  • Dynamic88 Dynamic88 on May 07, 2010

    I hope this is happening in other industries, not just cars. It's getting so I can't avoid buying Chinese products, but most are crap and need to be replaced frequently. I'm tired of "saving" money. Of course eventually production will go somewhere even cheaper, and the stores will be full of Bangladeshi, or Zimbabwean goods. I'll tell my grandchildren that Americans used to be wealthy enough to afford Chinese made goods.

    • Mpresley Mpresley on May 07, 2010
      Of course eventually production will go somewhere even cheaper... One might think so, however with any form of technological industrialism there has to be an indigenous labor pool capable of adapting to said technological manufacturing processes. It is not clear that certain Third World areas, areas where one might expect "cheap labor" to naturally manifest, have a population with the intrinsic attributes required to support a technological manufacturing infrastructure. Also, along with any nascent technological infrastructure there must exist a suitably stable political foundation allowing return on foreign capital investment. It is questionable whether some of the places you mention (and others like them) have this necessary foundation.

  • Littlehulkster Littlehulkster on May 07, 2010

    Look, Bertel, I know it's your job to sell the stuff, but I'll start buying Chinese the day they stop executing dissidents (and the homeless) with their mobile execution vans. Well, that among a myriad of other things. Until then, I'd sooner walk.