Mercedes steps up its quality offensive

Powertrain and electronics suppliers face tough tests

Stuttgart, Germany. Mercedes-Benz, in a major push to ramp up its quality, has written to several hundred powertain sector partsmakers warning that they face tough action if they deliver faulty parts. Major suppliers of electronic components also are in Mercedes' sights.

The quality offensive soon will extend to all suppliers. Those that deliver faulty parts face penalties including the axing of their contracts.

A letter obtained by Automobilwoche from Mercedes' purchasing quality management department warns suppliers of powertrain parts that if random checks on their components reveal any faults, Mercedes will demand:

  • daily reports from the supplier;

  • quality checks on every single part that leaves the warehouse;

  • individual labeling detailing a component's 20-day production history.

    Mercedes is initially targeting partsmakers that have sparked concern during supplier assessments over the past few weeks and suppliers that have been repeatedly queried over quality.

    Harald Boelstler, Mercedes' head of purchasing, strongly criticized some partsmakers at a recent meeting organized by Mercedes for its suppliers.

    Said one supplier executive invited to the meeting: "Mercedes is playing hardball now."

    Mercedes is organizing workshops during which suppliers are required to describe down to the last detail the quality assurance measures they are taking.

    But Mercedes denies it has launched a hard-line strategy. "We are not penalizing suppliers. It is a joint search for solutions and a concrete example of how our new quality offensive is being put into practice," said a Mercedes spokesperson.

    The German premium carmaker has demanded that major suppliers of electronic components increase module and integration tests at their own expense.

    Some suppliers are worried that they may be blamed for faults introduced after they have delivered components.

    An executive at Robert Bosch pointed out that Bosch could deliver a faultless part, but the part could become faulty if Mercedes made software changes shortly before production start-up.

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