Chrysler exec: Recalls strengthen industry ties

Chrysler's Doug Betts: “I think everybody's a little bit nervous about what's going on now.”
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DETROIT -- This year's long list of automotive recalls is strengthening the bond between suppliers and automakers, Chrysler Group's head of quality says.

Doug Betts, who since 2007 has overseen Chrysler's effort to improve its quality, says heightened scrutiny from regulators has suppliers clinging closely to their customers.

"I think suppliers are a little nervous and kind of want to huddle around their OEMs and say, 'Let's stick together and make sure none of us end up in trouble,'" Betts told Automotive News in June. "I think everybody's a little bit nervous about what's going on now."

Automakers have recalled record numbers of automobiles in the last year amid closer oversight from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The EPA is also scrutinizing automakers' fuel economy ratings more closely, causing Ford to issue some embarrassing restatements.

Yet Betts says the closer relationship between automakers and suppliers is leading to components that have improved in quality and greater cooperation in sorting out potential problems.

"I see progress in supplier quality year over year, and in particular, the last couple years. I feel we've made a lot of progress of having [fewer] issues where we're getting defective parts that we have to deal with or shut down for," Betts said.

But while recalls are bringing suppliers and automakers together to monitor quality, the urgency for suppliers to boost production as U.S. sales climb is a "countervailing force," Betts said.

"The pressure on production is obviously going to put a lot of pressure on suppliers," Betts said.

He said Chrysler is "doing a lot more proactive things," such as auditing suppliers and their operations more frequently, "so that we don't just wake up one day and have to shut a plant down because of defective parts."

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.


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