Doubts about Nissan’s quality quest

Our online community is clearly dubious about Nissan’s effort to boost quality with more worker training, cooperating with suppliers, and dramatically increasing the number of quality inspectors.

“This has seldom worked,” one writer says. “Quality has to be designed into the product, not inspected into it.”

Another says Nissan better have more to its plan than inspecting for defects, adding “inspection in and of itself adds no value.”

A third, apparently referring to the J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study that shows Nissan quality rated well below its primary rivals Toyota and Honda, says the low range of total defects for all vehicles makes the study a poor choice for improving quality. “Today’s automobiles are very, very good and most of the ‘problems’ are electronic or software,” he writes.

Coo@Tier1 recommends that senior Nissan executives review the program before it is implemented to make sure it doesn’t simply penalize suppliers for making faulty parts that Nissan designed. Otherwise, the writer says, “It will result in reduced cooperation, increased negativity and no measurable improvement.”

An uphill battle for Detroit

Similarly, writers posting comments on Fed loans to industry are ‘top priority’ are skeptical that the U.S. government will rush to help the domestic auto industry with rate-subsidized loans.

“Hard to believe the public will support this,” notes Moose. But if it did happen, the writer suggests limiting automaker executives’ gross pay to less than half a million dollars until the loans are repaid, adding “There needs to be some penalty for corporate leadership’s willful myopia.”

Coo@Tier1 says such loans “will only result in another subprime mess (and) eventual additional taxpayer burden,” but wryly notes the rumblings in Washington currently don’t include suppliers and other businesses directly or indirectly dependent on auto manufacturers.

Perhaps they noticed today’s Wall Street Journal editorial The next bailout: Detroit. To nobody’s surprise, the WSJ is against a bailout. But I was (alternately) amused and stunned at the logic employed.

After listing all of the Congressional and Federal Reserve bailouts for public, semi-public and private financial institutions – which took a lot of words and a chart – the editorial concludes that “American taxpayers can’t save everybody.”

So then logically, I guess, the editorial concludes, “The only way to stop this parade of supplicants is to start saying no – and Detroit is as good a place as any.”

Now apparently, Wall Street wasn’t as good a place as any back on March 15, when the Journal editorial page grumbled about the Fed rescuing investment bank Bear Stearns from collapse by making a $29 billion loan.

Back then, the financial newspaper editorialized, “The overriding public interest at the current moment is to maintain a functioning financial system, and regulators clearly felt this was at risk from a Bear failure. Just once we’d like to see what would happen if a big bank did fail, but the current general market panic arguably isn’t the best time to have that experiment.”

I have no idea if a Detroit bailout will get anywhere, even in an election year and Michigan a battleground state. But the road looks a bit uphill.

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