Nissan needed a quality expert to fix the Quest minivan. The automaker hired away from Toyota a former colleague of Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.
Earliest Nissan involvement: 2004
Role: Senior vice president for total customer satisfaction
Key influence: Created factory quality programs to restore Nissan's image after it was stung over glitches in its minivans
To fix the problem, the company hired Doug Betts, a quality expert from Toyota's truck factory in Princeton, Ind.
Betts was given a free hand to identify the root causes of the glitches in Canton. He also was given authority to improve Nissan quality at other plants and dealerships.
Betts was a stranger to Nissan, but not to CEO Carlos Ghosn. Betts had been a quality manager under Ghosn when Ghosn ran Michelin North America in Greenville, S.C.
At the Canton plant, he installed visual inspection screens to display close-up views of potential trouble areas, such as the roof lines of the Quest. Nissan workers would be able to examine steel and paint finishes microscopically.
Betts and his team ordered up brightly lit inspection areas on the vehicle lines to cut down on flaws in vehicle finishes. The plants installed automated touch-screen monitors that required workers to address all problems before a vehicle left assembly. That system would go into Nissan's plants worldwide.
Betts oversaw the creation of vehicle test tracks at the U.S. plants costing $10 million. The identical tracks required all vehicles to undergo a battery of quality checks that Nissan had never monitored.
He also identified a new area for improvements: dealership performance. Betts sent manufacturing engineers to Nissan and Infiniti dealerships around the country to help make their shops more efficient and, ideally, more profitable.
In 2007, with the dealership effort under way, Betts, now 44, was recruited away to Detroit to head a similar quality drive at financially troubled Chrysler LLC. He had spent barely three years with Nissan but left behind systems to improve Nissan's factories, its dealer performance and its customer perceptions.
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