Fiat S.p.A. doesn't have the reputation of producing quality cars in Europe and yet, its engineers are coaching their Chrysler Group counterparts on producing high-quality cars quicker and more cheaply.
At last week's presentation of Chrysler's five-year plan, Doug Betts, Chrysler's senior vice president for quality, said that the company was aware of these issues.
Betts said Chrysler has adopted Fiat's assembly line audit system and durability testing methods. But Fiat's way may not be all that much of an improvement.
In Europe, Fiat's quality has been improving but is still well below average. In J.D. Power and Associates' 2008 Customer Satisfaction Index studies for France, Germany and the United Kingdom, Fiat scored in the bottom quarter of more than 20 brands in vehicle quality and reliability.
Nonetheless, one change from Fiat that no one will argue with is an order to keep manufacturing equipment clean.
Scott Garberding, interim head of manufacturing, said it's far easier to spot problems on clean, uncluttered equipment and work areas.
Betts, who joined Chrysler in 2007 from Nissan North America Inc., said Chrysler has adopted Fiat's quality audit standards, which require better fit and finish. In fact, outside auditors are being brought in to assembly lines to take up to 320 measurements.